Apple again

Manhattan is once again in an Apple state of mind (it is the big apple after all).

Latest update: Apple is probably cooking something big in midtown, but its unlikely that it's going to be another store. There is a lot of excitement, as Apple is always full of surprises.

We'll see.

On a different note, there is also increased speculation about the price adjustment (cut) of iphone. According to latest news, the price cut may be in the neighborhood of $100 or even $200 and it will probably take place before the launch of the new 3G iphone (expected to be released on the one-year anniversary of the original iPhone debut June 27).
Of course that would be the logical thing to expect, although a report from Fortune suggests that the price cut will apply to the new, 3G, iphone, which doesn't make much sense, I think. Unless Apple dumps the old model altogether.

Disqus: A comment system or a new type of blogging?

Disqus is a new comments system for blogs. So what's the big deal?
Well, Disqus may change the role of blogs as we know them. Here is what it does:
  • It provides threaded conversations and encourages people to participate and to use their identity (see picture below)
  • Every commenter has a profile that is used on all blogs enabled with Disqus.
  • People can track, follow and rate other peoples comments.
So why is this important? The implication of this new approach is that it moves the center of gravity from the blog post to the comments and from the blogger to the community. Comments are not isolated anymore, but they form active conversation among users.
So, if I am a reader and all I do is go from blog to blog and leave cool comments, all these contributions will be automatically stored in my Disqus home page. Other people can comment or /rate my comments, and can decide to follow me.

So the big question is: do I still need to blog or can I replace blogging with commenting?

Sparkling magic in everything you do

(Its Sunday morning and I am off for the weekend. I am in a great mood, thus the weird post. Enjoy)

“Trust me. It’s paradise. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before…”

There is something really inviting about these words. The expectation of a unique experience that drives adrenaline through the roof. A moment when the rest of the world stops, because there is only one thing that matters: the promise of a mind blowing, maybe even life changing experience. An emotion.

Well, these words come from “the beach”, one of my favorite movies of all times (go rent it if you haven’t seen it). Leonardo DiCaprio and friends actually find Paradise on Earth, a pristine beach hidden somewhere in Thailand. The moment they first see the beach exactly encapsulates the essence of this feeling. It’s a moment when time stops and emotions overwhelm you. A split second when you feel like you are 5 years old again. A instant memory.

When was the last time that you said, or heard these words? Let me rephrase: When was the last time that you had such an experience? Yes, its been a while. Tough huh?

Maybe it’s part of not being a kid anymore. Or it’s because we live in a western society. After all abundance does make things look smaller and more of the same. Either way, maybe life has become too predictable. Work, home, friends, family, lunch, dinner, drinks, a new restaurant, a new pair of shoes. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Maybe not, if life is pleasant. But what if you feel that you are compromising? What if you feel that you experiences are not magical anymore? Then it becomes a problem. Future becomes your focus, and you can’t enjoy anything today. You think about it all the time. You are not happy anymore.

But happiness is an option. You can create magic for other people and then you will feel it too. You take risks and follow your heart. You change, your personal life, your career, your startup and everything that you create. In the end, you open up to new ideas even when you are afraid. And then you innovate and sparkle magic in everything you do.

Believe me, other people will feel the difference and appreciate it. It's so worth it.

UK Internet Ad Spend Up 38%, to Overtake TV in ‘09

WHAT: Online advertising in the UK grew from the smallest sector in 2003 to the third largest in 2007,. This is more than £2.8 billion in expenditures or a 38% year-on-year increase and a market share of 15.3%, according to findings released this recently.

What is even more interesting is that online looks set to overtake spending on TV in the UK by the end of 2009!

To put in in different way, this means that online will become the largest medium according to the study by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC).

SO WHAT: The future is here. Other countries will follow. There is hope even for laggards, like Greece.

Apple: 200,000 iPhone developers so far

WHAT: With over 1.7 million iPhones sold in the quarter and growing distribution including new countries (Austria and Ireland), Apple may come close to their target of 10 million iPhones by the end of the year.

WHAT's NEXT: Apple has signed up an impressive 200,000 developers for its iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) release thus far. According to the same source , more than 400 higher educations and more than one-third of Fortune 500 companies are now creating applications for the iPhone (!)

Apple will deliver a free update to the software that runs the iPhone — called iPhone 2.0 — in late June. That update will introduce the App Store, that will enable iPhone and ipod touch users to purchase, download and install third-party application software for the device.

SO WHAT: Well, if you are an iphone user this is great news. If you are an entrepreneur, it also opens up a whole new world of opportunities. So good news all around (unless you are a cell phone network)

First two weeks and the road ahead.

So its already been two weeks, since I started this blog. So far, the focus has been twofold:
On the one hand, I have tried to present things that (hopefully) inspire us. Big picture topics. Future trends. New ideas. Issues of career and personal change.
On the other hand, I have covered news and learnings; practical things that will help us with implementation.
I really like this mix.
I constantly feel the need to be inspired and dream big. But I also need the guidance and the practical advice of what works and how to do things. A good mix of structure and creativity. So far it looks like you like it too, so this is good news for all of us.
Moving forward I will also add new content, particularly in the "what works" area. I will demo new products that pop up here in NY (and beyond), trying to extract learnings for all of us. And I have secured some interesting interviews with entrepreneurs and *celebrities* so we can hear it from the horse's mouth.
So stay tuned because this is going to get more interesting. Feel free to contact me with comments and suggestions. Thanks for reading.

The size of your dreams: or charging for your products

David Heinemeier Hansson gave a talk at Paul Graham's startup school on April 19th. David is the creator of Ruby on rails and parter at 37signals.

WHAT: David's main point is that startups need to have a clear business model and not just look for an exit strategy. Using examples from the real world he concluded that its always a better strategy to charge for your product, even if that means having less customers.

Why is it a better strategy? Because the odds of recruiting 2000 customers who pay, say, $40 a month are much better than creating the next youtube. So its more doable.

SO WHAT: Although controversial in the mindst of this startup frenzy, David's points should hit home and make most entrepreneurs think twice about their vision and strategy. I guess the typical argument against this is "we should dream big or go home". Creating "just another" small internet business is obviously not sexy enough in a world of googles and facebooks.

But to David's point, if you find a good nich and a purpose in your life, you can really be successful AND happy. Its about getting to a point where you earn enough to call your own shots.

Maybe then you can also experiment with other products and ideas. But getting there is the first step.

Money Update: Slowing down

So, Venture Capital investment slowed down in the first quarter of '08. Admittedly, part of the decline is due to seasonality (first quarter is usually slower), but it's also in line with the economic slowdown, which puts things in perspective.

According to the report (Thomson Reuters and PricewaterhouseCoopers), venture investments dropped 8.5 percent to $7.1 billion in the three months ending March 31 from the $7.8 billion invested in the previous quarter (which was actually the highest since 2002)

As expected, funding for early and late stage companies declined, though funding rose for expansion-stage companies. Interestingly, internet investments were up overall.

Summarizing, it looks like we have reached the peak of this cycle. But that doesn't mean that there is only doom and gloom ahead.

Pangea Day - TED

A hypothetical supercontinent that included all the landmasses of the earth before the Triassic Period. Pangaea broke apart during the Triassic and Jurassic Periods, separating into Laurasia and Gondwanaland.

Stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Now, it brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

Pangea Day:
A powerful, first-of-its kind experience. Gathered in homes, movie theaters and larger venues, we can all participate in a remarkable program of film and talks, a kind of supercharged, marathon TED session, celebrating out common humanity.

From TED:

-“Out of thousands of submissions, we have assembled a fantastic line-up of films. There are about 20 in total, ranging in length from 2 to 15 minutes (most of them around 5). They all tell powerful stories, often without language, of what it is to be human. They are, by turns, funny, touching, dramatic, inspiring.

- But you won't just be watching films. You'll be watching the world watching. We're bringing in live audience images from around the world. Watching a film about reconciliation is one thing. Watching it while simultaneously witnessing the reactions of people who are supposed to hate each other will be something else altogether.
- The day also features a dozen powerful three-minute talks from scientists, film-makers, story-tellers and global visionaries.

Don't dismiss it as a warm & fuzzy peace-fest. The project builds on the latest ideas in anthropology, psychology and technology. We'll be revealing how.”

For more information and to find out how you can help you can visit the Pangea Day website

They promise that Pangea Day will look and feel like nothing you've seen before.

20 something

Success inspire us (or just make us jealous)

Once again, editors have surveyed the tech landscape to identify the industry's most promising entrepreneurs aged 30 and under. They got input from VCs, readers and editorial staff of BusinessWeek.
Check out the full article and their advice for would-be entrepreneurs in the midst of an economic slowdown.

Jonathan Harris - computers and art

This post is a bit different, so please keep reading...

Jonathan Harris, is an artist who uses new technology and computers to tell stories. In his own words, "Combining elements of computer science, anthropology, visual art and storytelling, Jonathan Harris (b. 1979) designs systems to explore and explain the human world."

I first met Jonathan last year in one of the New York tech meetups where he was presenting his Universe project. There was something magical about that experience, so I went on to check the rest of this work which was truly and inspiration.

My personal favorite is "we feel fine", a website that searches the world's newly posted blog entries every few minutes, for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.), while also storing any images that appear on that post. (example below)

Then he uses cool visualizations to present this information, but you'd better check the website because words can not easily describe it.

So the news is that, I just got an email from him last night announcing his latest work. The project was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in NY (MoMA) and it's called "I want you to want me".

I will NOT try to explain what this is about, after all its art, but I suggest you check the video that follows.

Looking inside your brain

WHAT: Neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms demoed an amazing new way to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to show brain activity (emotion, body movement, pain) while it is happening .

HOW: In a hypothetical example, you can move your hand and see in a monitor the parts of the brain that are responsible for this activity. In other words, you can literally see how you move your hand.

SO WHAT: The big insight is that up that when you can see your brain, you can learn how to control it.

We are the first generation that has this ability. Where will we take it?

more twitter more twitter more twitter more twitter

Twitter has become an essential marketing and communication tool. It looks like its here to stay for a while, particularly as its traffic is in the millions and is still growing fast.

Example #1:
A few days ago, acclaimed blogger Hugh MacLeod, (gapingvoid ) deleted his twitter account, making some of us believe that this was a twitter had reached a turning point.
Then he signed right back (a day later), only to prove that twitter is here to stay.

In his words: Too many people I do business with are also on Twitter. Being off it was impossible. My bad.

Example #2: Serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has announced that he will give one of his friends on Twitter a Macbook Air if he becomes the #1 user (he is now #2 behind Obama).

Jason said that "in March Twitter sent over 10,000 people to Mahalo and this month we're on track to have 20,000 folks visit Mahalo from Twitter. If the 20,000 number is sustainable, 250,000 folks will visit Mahalo from Twitter over the next year. Most of these folks are coming from my personal account."

"Twitter is going to be huge" he concluded.

Example #3 (pesrsonal experience): I twitted about social search website mahalo on Monday and only two hours later I got a "follow request" from C.K. Sample III, who is the editorial director at mahalo...

Although it was a bit intrusive it was very powerful, immediate and interactive.

I felt that you can really work miracles with twitter if you use it right...

Story-telling with web2.0

This story comes from springwise

A new project from UK-based Penguin Books' digital fiction group, is using the power of the internet to tell stories in new and surprising ways.

In mid-March Penguin—along with alternative reality gaming firm Six to Start—launched the We Tell Stories initiative through which consumers can enjoy six digital novels by six different authors over the course of six weeks for free.

The first story, which launched March 18, was "The 21 Steps" by renowned thriller author Charles Cumming. The story is inspired by the 39 Steps, which established John Buchan as the original thriller writer and inspired many other novelists and filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock.

"He was the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time," the story begins, and readers follow the protagonist's adventures step by step across the world using Google Maps, with text presented in the technology's information bubbles at each point along the way.

Three more stories have been published, leveraging new technology (twitter, google maps, user generated content) to engage the audience. As Penguin notes on its site, "these stories could not have been written 200, 20 or even 2 years ago." It's a whole new world for storytellers—one to watch, whether you're in media or not.

I personally tried it and it's interesting. Probably not for the hard core book lovers, but still interesting and fresh.

Remote collaboration

Mbriyo was initially launched to address the (local) needs of NYC based entrepreneurs. Very soon, we started getting requests from elsewhere, so we debated a little bit about the ability to work remotely.

Now, some of our clients are international and we already have some experience of what works.

Clearly, collaboration can be a challenge, despite the use of the latest technology. Skype, document sharing, online presentations, calendars etc provide some good functionality, but at the end of the day, it's more about the dedication of the team, the clarity of the vision and the strategy and the consistency of the communication.

On the flip side, there are many startups that have been spread out to more than one locations and managed to succeed. I was reading about 37 signals which is probably one of these examples... a startup which is now spread out over 4 locations. In this case, the presence of constraints have made them more creative, pushing them to find new ways and to work around these constraints.

So are you thinking about expanding in the US? Remember: there are 7 hours difference with the East coast alone (NY), so communication can be a challenge.

But what’s the flip side of being 7 hours ahead? Alone time. Time where you can really focus and get things done. And there are still about 4-5 hours during the day that you can communicate in real time.

So, if your team is focused and has clear objectives and milestones, it should work. As it does in our case.

sk*rt: digg for women

Sk-rt is a website where users can find and rate content, just like digg. The only difference is the content itself, as the website is targeting women. So instead of technology and computers, the topics cover arts&entertainment, design & crafts, family &parenting, food& home.

An interesting twist of a successful concept, which proves that you don't have to create something entirely new to succeed. Repackaging and repositioning can work just fine.

Quiting your job

Alexander Kjerulf, author of "happy hour is 9 to 5" and self proclaimed "Chief Happiness Officer", recently posted a list of top 10 bad excuses for staying in a bad job. I particularly enjoyed #5:

“If I quit I’ll lose my salary, status, company car, the recognition of my peers, etc.”
Yes, quitting a job carries a price and that makes it scary. We all know this intimately.But few of us ask this question: What is the price of staying in a job that makes you unhappy? That price can be very high. It can ruin your work life but also your marriage, your family life, your health, your self-esteem and your sanity.

Not all at once, but a little bit every day.

the last career guide you'll ever need

...while I am at Daniel Pink, here is another interesting thought about building your career: the rules have changed. The old model of "doing everything right" and getting "a good job" doesn't work like it used to. This, of course, is old news for some of us. But for those of you considering a startup as a next step, it might be interesting information. More on Johnny Bunko...

Johnny Bunko trailer from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

a whole new mind: right is right

Daniel Pink presented his latest thinking at the World Innovation forum this week. The main point was that right side brain people will have an edge in the years to come. As we know our brain has two sides... left and right and different tasks take place in each area. Our left side is responsible for tasks that are more analytical and require attention to detail, while the right side will help us with tasks that require big picture and context.

The big aha, is that left side skills are becoming more commoditized due to automation, i.e. a computer can do such tasks better than a human being. Taking this to the next level, jobs that are left side intensive and anything that can be translated to a step by step process are being outsourced to India and other places. In addition to that abundance of products in the western societies creates a clear need for differentiation and innovation.

So... in order to survive you have to think differently or at least hire /work with people that have this skill set. Food for thought for your startup team.

The Decline And Fall of Western Civilization Part III: The Twitter Years

With this crazy title, techcrunch's Erick Schonfeld announced that Hugh McLeod (gapingvoid) deleted his twitter account. Why is this news? Is it important? Hugh is a cool blogger, a twitter early adopter and up until recently a big fun.Not any more. Comments from his readers were polarizing, but there was a lot of discussion... For some, twitter has always been a niche service for geeks... for some others, it is the best thing since facebook... and for some it was another passing fad that illustrated the problem of information overload. As similar services pop up using video or other types of communication, and some feel that twitter still doesn't have a business model, we are just pondering about the shortening life cycle of startups. ..

BarCamp NYC 3 – an unconference of brilliant people

WHAT: A couple of weeks ago I attended BarCamp NYC-3. BarCamp is an “unconference”, a loose conference if you like, where creative people, computer engineers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, webdesigners, investors and venture capitalists gather and interact…

Various other interesting people show up (creatives, social philosophers and other self proclaimed gurus) to discuss, explore and exchange views about… pretty much everything.

To put it in one sentence, I was simply overwhelmed by the freshness of ideas, the passion of people and the diversity of talent. Simply amazing.

HOW: Here is how it works: anybody can participate on one condition: they have to contribute to a session or present something.

So, you show up with an idea, or an issue, a demo or a presentation and you put your name and subject on the notice board (see below)

SO WHAT: The idea is simple enough and it works. The benefit is huge, as you get feedback for free, from the best brains and eyeballs that you could probably get. For instance, one guy held a session on “how to expand to a new country”. He didn’t have a a presentation, he was basically asking for guidance and opinions from the group. Another one hosted a half an hour session titled “what is the business model of twitter”? it was fascinating to see how people were brainstorming and found numerous ways of monetizing this great startup.

Overall, more than 200 people attended and there were at least 5-6 sessions taking place simultaneously at every single moment. The driving power that fuelled this gathering was the passion and motivation of the people to share and learn.

Are we ready to throw something like this in Greece? Maybe we can try… Lets do more sharing and learning.

Kick off – thinking outside the borders.

Ever since I was a kid I was led to believe that there is something really great and fundamentally different about being Greek. I guess they teach you this stuff at school for thousands of years now. There is nothing wrong about that, actually it's great and I still feel that we are different people but maybe for different reasons.

Living abroad for a while (UK in the 90’s, New York for the last 4 years) has changed my perspective a bit and this is what I will be sharing with you on this blog. The objective is not to complain about our misfortunes or praise our unique talents, but like I said just to give a different perspective. Hopefully we can all learn from this, especially if there are comments and discussion.

Within this context, I will try to provide useful advice based on my location and perspective. Being a founding partner of , I will be talking a lot about internet, startups and business strategy. On the other hand, I will also try to capture some of the key market trends as I experience them here in New York: new concepts, fresh marketing ideas and other goodies that I can report back to you while I am in NYC...

On top of this, my dream is to also do the following:

1-Challenge the existing work mentality: most people are in jobs that they don’t really like… they will wake up one day only to realize how unhappy they are and that they lost the opportunity of a lifetime (literally) to really stand for something. Even worse, free economy is challenging the notion of job security, even in Europe. You can get fired and nobody will ever care. How about trying to make the rules instead of following them?

2-Sell the idea of entrepreneurship: we all know that this Greece is not the greatest location to start a startup. People are afraid, or they don’t know where to start from and clearly the State and legal environment do not really help to change this. Nevertheless, there are ways and we can do it, but we need to change a few things in the process.

There is so much out there for grabs. Let's go get it.

Please keep your comments coming. Challenge, debate, argue, do whatever you want.