Ah, we’re back already for Thanksgiving. Not sure where this year went, and it won’t be too long before I do my end-of-the-year post.
It’s cheesy to write a post giving thanks, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do anyways. Last year‘s post already covers many of the same things I would want to cover now, so I won’t list them again. 
Here are five fresh thankful things:
1.      Ever expanding connections from anywhere and everywhere. This year, I’ve picked up projects from meeting people at UK Consulate events, Starbucks, and the like. Doesn’t matter where I am, people have been happy to meet, talk shop, and stay connected.
2.      Adding odd experiences to my CV. This year, I’ve been pulled into FOUR different photoshoots ranging from school magazines to company collateral. Never done that before.
3.      Keep On Getting Up. Early part of this summer was brutal for me – I’m Tired of Faking It, But I Want This War. But after realizing I was at a soul-crushing place, I put in elements to catch myself and get back up.
4.      New experiences, and continual self-confidence and awareness. I’ve been pushing a lot of openness with others. It’s been a continuous practice in being self-confident. Meanwhile, sharing my journey has inspired others, too.

5.      Being in Atlanta. Atlanta is one of those places that has got ups and downs. I love that. It’s weather offers seasons. The transformation of the Beltline is invigorating. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with just about anyone you want to. The small community and cultural desire to help each other is vibrant. Forever, I love Atlanta.
What would your cheesy Thanksgiving giving thanks post say? What’re two things you’re thankful for?
I recently stumbled on an article on TechCrunch about empty state designs – “The Most Overlooked Aspect of UX Design Could Be The Most Important”. It’s pretty good, and I won’t rehash the whole thing.
In gist, empty state design refers to the design and experience (UI/ UX) of an application when a new user opens an app or new feature. For example, if you just downloaded a photo sharing app, what would the app say and do to motivate you to use it? Poor empty state designs can lead to confusion, diminished interest, and the like which ultimately yields high churn early on.
Benjamin Brandall, the author, writes empty state designs should tell the user three things:
  1. What is this page/ platform for?
  2. Why are you, the user, seeing this?
  3. How can you fill out this page?

Body Boss was built quite feature heavy without clear call-to-actions upon new registration. We noticed this more apparently when we were signing up coaches on the spot at a trade show early on.

When coaches entered, there was an empty dashboard because no players had done any workouts yet. It was just a great-looking black screen. That’s not useful or sexy.
Our first design was a beautiful black screen. Not helpful, and not actually sexy
Similar to what the article suggests and what is common in successful apps today, we added a Getting Started Wizard walking coaches through setting up their organization.
We added a Getting Started Wizard walking the user through a simple set-up process when a coach first registers

The Getting Started Wizard walked through many different building blocks of Body Boss including adding players individually, or importing en masse
The result was more coaches knowing exactly what they needed to do to get started. We saw engagement rise especially in areas like inviting coaches, setting up groups, etc. The wizard was a great tool to complement our drip onboarding emails, too, to additionally provide structure in the onboarding process.
Check out Brandall’s article, and let me know your thoughts!
I had lunch with the Founder of one of the startups I’m working with and the company’s CEO. The Founder is the visionary, and ran the business for the last several years. Early this year, the Founder tapped the CEO from the outside to take over the company’s day-to-day.
Normally, the CEO role encompasses strategic and visionary activities; however, in this case, the company Founder continues the strategic duties. The CEO is the “scaler”.
I sat down with the CEO privately to ask him what being a scaler meant to him:
  • Does not need to be the one with the original idea. Instead, he embraces ambiguity in the direction of the company, and is excited for the opportunity to grow (scale)
  • Instills processes to complement startup scrappiness with structure. The startup, in this case, has product-market fit, revenue, and a sense of the future direction – prime opportunity for a scaler. As an early-stage startup, processes are more machine gun spray. With maturity, the scaler focuses the company on a clearer target
  • Supports structure by promoting and hiring the right team members. The scaler identifies non-contributing links and removes them while filling gaps with trusted colonels from outside or promoting from within
  • Balances the values and ethos of the startup with structure and governance. As a company starts to scale, structures will develop to support growing lines of communication, product development, marketing and sales, etc. Delegation and accountability is shifted to provide effective lines of leadership and support

Some entrepreneurs thrive on building companies from scratch but are less interested at some level of maturity. For the benefit of the company and its stakeholders, it’s important to realize the gaps in the team via the management team or simple self-awareness. Then, augment the team with complementary leaders to grow efficiently.

What are the benefits of having two leaders at the helm of a startup in the early growth stage, each leading one of vision or day-to-day? What are the dangers? How could scaler entrepreneurs play roles in early-stage startups?
Screenshot from http://techcrunch.com/gallery/y-combinator-startup-playbook/slide/42/
Last week, TechCrunchpublished 62 Tips from Y Combinator’s Startup Instruction Manual. It was written by YC’s President Sam Altman with some good quotes to ponder when doing a startup. I wanted to share my favorite Altmanisms:
  • “Today’s successful companies all started with a product that their early users loved so much they told other people about it. If you fail to do this, you will fail.”
  • “The fast you can develop self-belief and not get dragged down by haters, the better off you’ll be. No matter how successful you are, the haters will never go away.”
  • “The best ideas sound bad but are in fact good. So you don’t need to be too secretive with your idea – if it’s actually a good idea, it likely won’t sound like it’s worth stealing.”
  • “Founder need both rigidity and flexibility. You want to have strong beliefs about the core of the company and its mission, but still be willing to learn new things when it comes to almost everything else.”
  • “If you have a pre-existing relationship with your cofounders, none of you will want to let the other down and you’ll keep going. Cofounder breakups are one of the leading causes of death for early startups.”
  • “You want to start with something very simple – as little surface area as possible – and launch it sooner than you’d think.”
  • “You should not put anyone between the founders and the users for as long as possible – that means the founders need to do sales, customer support, etc.”
  • “Don’t fool yourself with vanity metrics. The common mistake here is to focus on signups and ignore retention. But retention is as important to growth as new user acquisition.”
  • “Find ways to get 90% of the value with 10% of the effort. The market doesn’t care how hard you work.”
  • “No first-time founder knows what he or she is doing. Ask for help and you’ll be better off. Find a mentor.”
  • “A successful startup takes a very long time – much longer than most founders think. You cannot treat it as an all-nighter. You have to eat well, sleep well, exercise, and spend time with your family and friends.”
  • “Competitors are a startup ghost story. First-time founders think they are what kill 99% of startups. But 99% of startups die from suicide, not murder.”
  • “The first check is the hardest to get, so focus your energies on getting that, which usually means focusing your attention on whoever loves you the most.”
  • “The key to being good at pitching is to make your story as clear as possible: mission, problem, product/ service, business model, team, market and market growth rate, and financials.”

What are some of your favorite tips from Sam or others? Any particular reasons?

Jim Rohn, inspirational author and speaker, shared the “Parable of the Sower” from the Bible to illustrate the law of averages – ~7’ video below. He’s famous, too, for the notion you’re the average of the five people closest to you. Turns out the parable has many lessons for entrepreneurs and startups.

Jim shares how despite birds eating many seeds and complexities of shallow, rocky soil, the sower keeps sowing. Never once does the sower mind the birds or the soil knowing that if he were to chase the birds, he’d get off course.

“If you chase the birds, you’ve left the field. You’re not sowing anymore.”

The logic is that the sower sows more seeds than the birds can get and more seeds that would survive the hot days.
Some relevant points to this story, and indeed the law of averages, for entrepreneurs:

  • Not every prospect is a buyer, so sell (engage) with as many of the market and you’ll close many.
  • The birds of a startup can be many including requests for more features, chasing funding, meetings, etc. Seeds can be time, sales prospects, the product, etc. Be wary of chasing too much and chasing birds as you can quickly find yourself “off the field” and no longer adding value to the startup.
  • With more resources, the sower could address the birds and the soil. The sower was a one-man enterprise addressing a single plot of land. If there were multiple sowers, you can see how they could plant twice as fast, or an additional hand could chase away the birds or lay down fertile soil.
What are other lessons for entrepreneurs from the “Parable of the Sower”? How could additional resources address the challenges of the sower? For a startup?
An entrepreneur recently asked me how to monetize her app. She’s made great progress building and marketing her app. In fact, she’s been asked to do several interviews and has been invited to conferences all over. Next, she’s seeking investment to support growth, but has few ideas on monetization. Given specific challenges, she could consider monetizing based on third-parties.
Some background: the entrepreneur’s app empowers users to reach long-term safety and security. Since app launch, she’s ridden an impressive wave of press and publicity. Her app is cause-related, and given the most common user demographic, users are not financially stable. Meanwhile, as a for-profit company, asking for donations to support app development and her cause has been troublesome.
The app helps users navigate the long process getting from “low-point” to “high-point”. Because her target users have little disposable income, charging users will be a major deterrent and possibly dilute the power of her cause.
The entrepreneur could consider monetizing the steps along the user journey by considering what third-parties could benefit from reaching the user and by supporting the cause. Perhaps like…

A gamification-like strategy, where company-sponsored rewards (i.e. discounts towards food, clothing, etc.) are earned when users complete specific educational tasks. This can motivate users to stay on track and supported throughout their journeys towards the high-point. 

The entrepreneur can monetize based on reward redemption or sponsorship careful not to dilute sponsorship dollars for the sake of revenue. Meanwhile, sponsoring companies will be able to market their products and services, while also supporting a positive cause.

There are many ways to monetize popular apps despite hurdles – low income users, fears of cause/ value dilution, user privacy, etc. In this entrepreneur’s case, consider not only the target users, but also what third-parties can benefit along a user’s journey.
Image Source: https://static.pexels.com/photos/7543/pexels-photo.jpeg
Last week, I attended the 3rd annual Mobility LIVE conference in Atlanta. This year’s event had a distinct Internet of Things (IoT) and Wearables flavor with the intersection of mobility.
I heard from over 15 speakers and panels ranging from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to early-stage entrepreneurs and to execs at ad agencies and investment firms. Topics spanned location-based marketing technology, wearables, the future of mobility and connectivity, to Atlanta’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem and investors’ takes on the future.
Poring over my Day 1 and Day 2 notes from the conference, I’ve distilled the conference into 5 take-aways for your enjoyment. Here we go:

Security is the greatest concern. Every panel noted security as a concern as more devices become connected and wireless. However, I’m wondering if there’s a sense that the companies will figure out security. Instead, it’s about overcoming security concerns for the public who are incredibly skeptical of Big Brother, too. But even then, there’s a level of comfortability with execs in believing the value to be gained will outweigh concerns.

Power consumption is the second concern. You can see this every day in frantic searches for outlets to charge smartphones. In the IoT age, sensors will be affixed to devices that currently lack power sources. With upwards of 50B connected devices by 2020, cost and efficiency of powering devices will be a daunting challenge.

Carriers will be the big winners, and they’ll deserve it. In 2006, U.S. mobile data usage was 11PB (1 petabytes = 1E6 GB). In 2014, usage shot up to 4.1K PB (4.1E9GB, ~73K% growth). In 2020, mobile data is estimated to surge to 31EB per month (~3.72E11GB annually!). Those ludicrous data numbers will flow, largely, wirelessly. The cellular companies today will have the unenviable task of developing the infrastructure to support this throughput, and they’ll have access to all of it. Wow.

Jury’s out on the effectiveness of wearables today. There are no clear standards, guidelines, and the like for wearables. Step counters can be easily faked. Smart clothing isn’t where we need them to be. Meanwhile, there are no educational programs to help doctors understand wearable data. With 33% of wearers abandoning their devices within six months, users aren’t seeing value out of wearables today. The industry must establish guidelines on data collection and analyses. Opportunities for wearables will depend, also, on interoperability of devices – exercise devices connected to nutritional devices connected to emotion devices, etc. There will be security and privacy concerns. Will there be enough value from wearables to overcome these fears?
Atlanta still has so much potential for startups and entrepreneurship. The city is rich with large corporations and strengths in FinTech, MarTech, Payment Processing, Supply Chain, etc. Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, and shows no signs of slowing down. With the cost for entrepreneurship nose-diving over the years, Georgia Tech’s presence, density of large companies, and the like, Atlanta is primed to grow through startups. But to continue growth in this trajectory, entrepreneurs must have better access to the larger corporations in Atlanta.
If you were at Mobility LIVE last week, what were the big trends you noticed? From the above, where do you see opportunities to build the Next Great Startup?
If you haven’t already seen, take a look at the Day 1 Notes from Mobility LIVE and then Day 2 to see the more detailed take-aways. Very interesting insights.

The 3rd annual Mobility LIVE! Conference (the largest mobility technology conference in the southeast) took place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta October 28-29th
Wrapped up Day 2 (the final day) of Mobility LIVE! at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The annual event brings together thought leaders in the mobile space in a series of speakers and panels.
I recapped Day 1 on Thursday. That was exhaustive. For Day 2, I’m going with 3-5 take-aways per talk and panel. Except, I’ll add a brief intro to each speaker/ panel to summarize.
Yesterday was all about the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables. Today was a continuation on IoT, but also more focus on mobility as a whole and startups.
Kicking us off was a chat between Glenn Lurie, AT&T Mobility President and CEO, and Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services at Apple. In many ways, these two helped usher in the mobile world as we know it today being key members along with Steve Jobs and Ralph de la Vega in bringing the iPhone to market in 2007. Glenn and Eddy recall those negotiations between AT&T and Apple and the relationship between the two ever since…
  • The initial discussions between AT&T and Apple were anything but amicable. Neither company understood the other’s business and vision. Apple wanted to completely upend the way carriers operated with phones (iPhone, specifically, of course), but never once showed AT&T the iPhone till AFTER the deal was done. They reached common ground by understanding each others’ needs and metrics for success over time. They built world-disrupting models on personaltrust. You can see the strong trust and relationship in their interaction together on stage with the quips and remarks – fun to watch.
  • The first “OMG THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD” moment came when Glenn and Ralph finally got to touch the iPhone (after negotiations, mere months before launch). The second occurred when Glenn and Ralph heard of the App Store when iPhone 3G was releasing. Eddy and Steve only thought there would be 100s of apps… they didn’t fathom the beast the App Store is today and how it’s created whole new businesses, industries, and more.
  • Other phone manufacturers at the time were hardware-focused. They saw software as a “necessary evil”. Steve and Eddy saw the opportunity in software to do so much more. As we know today, the iPhone is a great device, but the software and the App Store are the greater opportunities.
  • Apple actually started developing a tablet before the iPhone. However, after first pinching and zooming, they realized the bigger opportunity to implement touch on phones. They pivoted towards the iPhone immediately. In fact, AT&T’s phone specs didn’t have any place for touch… specs all illustrated buttons. Apple didn’t want any buttons (except maybe the one for Home).
  • Apple’s mission, as instilled by Steve, was to not make iterative improvements to solve problems. Instead, they wanted to hone in on large problems we allencounter, or build the platforms to allow others to solve more specific, complex problems. Eddy and Steve believed you can’t be iterative when it comes to innovation.
Michael Zito, General Manager of AT&T’s Smarter Cities, moderated a two-person panel of David Cummings, CEO of Atlanta Tech Village, and Charles Curran, Senior Director of Qualcomm Ventures. Michael was the keynote speaker of last year’s Mobility LIVE! Day 2, and speaking as a former entrepreneur who exited, Michael peppered Cummings and Curran on startups and venture investment, especially in Atlanta.
  • Atlanta is “best of breed” in many areas including internet security, marketing technology, logistics companies, finance technology, and payment processing. Having the 3rd highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies helps. Processing 70% of all payments in Georgia helps. Having Georgia Tech as a “secret weapon” helps.
  • There needs to be more involvement from the big companies around ATL (the Fortune 500s) to engage with startups and entrepreneurs to solve problems. There has been growing involvement, though, as seen in innovation centers from Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, AT&T, Georgia Pacific, and the like all at the Tech Squarecorridor.
  • Yik Yakis a great Atlanta consumer story which is very outside the norm – Atlanta is a big B2B startup hub. The founders of Yik Yak had the idea in college, launched in Oct. 2013, and had 60K college students by Feb. 2014. They’ve raised ~$70M with no revenue, and show no signs of slowing down as a major consumer success startup calling Atlanta home.
  • 0.3% of venture-backed startups make 95% of the profits… only 0.1% of startups raise venture capital. Yikes!
  • On advice to ATL entrepreneurs: Atlanta needs big hitters (those who have been very, very successful in the past) to support startups and entrepreneurs. Also, capital can be attained from anywhere with “mobile capital” àsmaller investments across geographies, greater meritocracy.
Consumer Products and Connect Retail panel moderated by Jeffrey Sawyer of Accenture. The panel included Tom Daly of The Coca-Cola Company, Tim Henderson of Microsoft, Nicu du Plessis of SportsMobile USA, and Lee Wagner of AT&T. The panel focused on how IoT is influencing their companies and their companies’ clients. 
  • There are many challenges to IoT and connecting everything. Starting “small” with one connected retail store is a challenge. However, the challenges get exponentially more difficult once you bring scale to the equation (think Moore’s Law). The largest hurdle is and will be security.
  • Retailers are trying many different technologies to add value to their businesses from social to mobile. Retailers like Macy’s, in particular, and Bloomingdales are leading the way with iBeacons, smart fitting rooms, interactive kiosks, and more.
  • As everything gets more and more connected, true value will be realized when there is greater interoperability (systems talking to one another). However, there will be a “creepy” factor where people will be fearful of “big brother”. The key to overcome this, however, will be the value-add. What was once feared in mobile banking before is now replaced with ubiquitous mobile banking adoption – value > creepy.
  • Example of ThyssenKrupp including sensors on their elevators. The company measured everything about their elevators from weight to cable tension to time from button-push and elevator movement. Given 40% of the world’s power consumption can be attributed to buildings and 10% of that energy consumed by elevators, ThyssenKrupp has the data to now lower meaningful energy consumption. ThyssenKrupp can now mitigate energy costs for its customers.

Mapping Mobile Commerce – From Online to Offline and Back panel moderated by Asif Khan, Founder and CEO of Location-Based Marketing Association. The panel included many media/ advertising executives including Duane Smith of 22squared, Kelly Hogue of Millennia Media, Ed King of MaxMedia, Robert Russell of UPS, and Steve Solari of Skyhook. With the large number of advertising agencies present, the panel was able to discuss technology in several environments. UPS added another element not necessarily from the traditional brick-and-mortar, but with location services for its trucks. Skyhook, then, provided insight as an infrastructure partner. And given Asif’s organization, there was a distinct locational interest to proceedings.

  • “What does location-based marketing mean to you?” was the first order of business. Across the panel, proximity/ location helps drive relevance of advertising content to viewers. Location can identify audiences and provide insights.
  • There are lots of technologies to identify location. Some are more accurate than others, but is the cost for more accuracy worth it? In stores, you can evaluate point-of-sale (POS) data, dwell time, compare campaigns of location-captured and non-location-captured, heat maps, etc.
  • As said earlier, location drives relevance. Retailers aim to drive traffic to their brick-and-mortar stores. Once there, the retailer must create an engaging customer experience to increase dwell time and drive conversion. But post-sale (or after the customer leaves), retailers need to re-engage customers to drive return visits or even visits to their online stores.
  • Evaluating technologies can be difficult. Many technologies sound good, but can be difficult to tie to specific use-cases. Also, scaling technologies like iBeacons can prove to be difficult. For tech considerations, retailers must ensure tactics and tech is directly tied to metrics. Also, retailers must consider privacy and security concerns.
  • An audience member looking to present business cases for retailers around retail technologies asked about metrics to evaluate the success of technology within the four-walls. A quick list: return visits, recency, frequency, distance traveled (from home to store), emotional, Net Promoter Score (NPS), foot traffic, online activities, and even social magnification (shares).

Jim Bailey, Global Managing Director of Accenture Digital Mobility, took on the daunting topic of Insights on the Future of Mobility all on his lonesome. Armed with slides of statistics after statistics, Jim painted a picture of a connected life… Or more specifically, what Accenture dubs “Living Services”.

  • Here are some numbers: 212B sensors by 2020. 50B connected devices by 2020. End of 2014, 80% of Fortune 1000 companies would have public APIs. 31EB (that’s exabytes = one billion billion bytes) per month in 2020. A BMW 5-Series uploads 1GB of data per 10 miles driven. 89% of businesses (across the globe) believe IoT will have a fundamental impact on their businesses, but only 7%have a comprehensive strategy for IoT.
  • 1990s was the internet and web era. The 2000s was the age of mobility. 2010’s ushers in living services. Living services is the combination of Digitization of Everything (products with built-in smart tech) + Liquid Consumer Expectations (cultural shifts raising our expectations for best-in-class experience across categories).
  • Living services requires three components: 1) Knowing your customer; 2) Flexing technology; 3) Design. Up till now, we have been in a “process-led” innovation world. Tomorrow, we’ll be in a design-led innovative world.
  • Can you guess what he views as the biggest risk to all of this? (It’s security.)

The Investors Perspective on Mobile was moderated by Dr. Phil Hendrix, Founder of immr. Hendrix spearheaded a diverse investor panel of Sig Mosley of Mosley Ventures, Blake Patton of Tech Square Ventures, and Alan Taetle of Noro-Mosley Ventures. The investors range in experience from 1 year and 5 deals to over 122 deals spanning 20+ years. Being an entrepreneur, I was excited about this one.

  • Given the disparity in experience, the investors have seen varied levels of investment evolution. Mosley, the most senior, recounted the much longer time to develop products and bring them to market compared to today. Costs are significantly cheaper… what would’ve cost $50M to build a successful company 10-20 years ago may only take $15M today.
  • In mobility (and indeed, in general), the investors see lots of opportunities. Blake is high on IoT. Alan is high on healthcare. Sig is high on virtual reality and security. To this point, the investors stuck to their “guidelines” 99% of the time… rarely did they break into unfamiliar territories. When/ if they did, investments usually didn’t end well.
  • As touched on before, the investors rarely played in new sandboxes where they never played before. The investors, with the exception of Alan, were reluctant to enter healthcare companies due to the complexities – capital intensive, regulations, insurance, etc.
  • There are goods and bads in ATL as an investor, of course. The investors explained ATL’s exponential growth in entrepreneurial activity to be a ripe condition for investments. Sig and Blake, especially, are early-stage investors, and have been very active. Long-term success of investment in ATL will depend on the ability of startups who attract early-stage funding to attract later-stage funding outside of ATL.
  • Motivations for investment in early-stage startups or startups, in general, was very straight-forward for this panel – the entrepreneur/ team. They test the passion of the entrepreneur as s/he will invariably “wander in the desert”. Will s/he find his/ her way and stay focused to see the company to success? The investors also test for coachability especially for early-stage entrepreneurs who need the guidance. Alan remarked: “Intelligence + Self-Awareness” over Experience.atlanta, startups, entrepreneurship, mobility, internet of things, investors, venture capital

The 3rd annual Mobility LIVE! Conference (the largest mobility technology conference in the southeast) took place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta October 28-29th
Just wrapped up day 1 of this year’s Mobility LIVE! event held at the Georgia World Congress Center. This year marks the 3rd installment of the annual convergence of mobility leaders from all over. With over 1,200 registrations for this year’s event, it’s proven to be a big hit (3 times the number of the first event).
I attended the event last year, and like last year, I’ll hit the highlights of the sessions I attended. Last year’s event was heavy on mobile payments. This year, we’re concentrating on the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables– two areas I don’t know have much depth about, but do have a degree of depth.
But in addition to mobility, Mobility LIVE! showcases Atlanta’s unique and advantageous position at the heart of the mobile world. As one of the few, the proud, the native Atlantan, this event resonated proudly with me.
So let me start…

  • 3 trends in mobility: 1) Software and software development àBetter, faster, cheaper; 2) “Mobile is eating the world” – 10 years ago, we were using Amazon as the paradigm. Now, we’re using Uber and Airbnb; 3) Internet of Things – “Everything wants to be connected”. By 2020, 25-50B “things” to be connected
  • We’re in a “software defined” world. We don’t need to carry around a flashlight, calculator, or alarm clock. Instead, we just have a phone that does it all – the modern day Swiss-army knife
  • “Georgia Tech is a ‘crown jewel’ of Atlanta”. AT&T works closely with Georgia Tech on many initiatives including funding the first online Masters in Computer Science and other Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

  • 24,000 technology jobs in Atlanta last year
  • 250 mobile startups in Atlanta
  • 18 Fortune 500 companies within and around the metro area
  • Stressed the need to not only attract millennials, but need to retain them

Panel Discussion on Mobility
  • Moderated by Reed Peterson, Global Head of Strategic Engagement at GSMA
  • Panel included Joe Mosele (VP Business Developent – IoT Solutions at AT&T Mobility), Edenilson Fleischmann (President and CEO of Indra USA), and Edgard Sammour (Sr. Product Manager at GE Digital Energy)
  • We’re still in a people-to-people world (social)
  • Getting to IoT, we will one day not even *think* about internet. It’ll be so ubiquitous
  • IoT: sensors à things communicate with one another àthings understand each other on their own
  • What’s missing? Sensors and power consumption. Think, especially, about the *things* that are currently not powered that will need to like water meters
  • Another opportunity/ challenge is interoperability. That is, how everything ties back together. It’s “communication intelligence”. Think: electronic medical records (EMR), fitness wearables, alerting doctors or 911 in an emergency event
  • A lot is still left to be done in security with IoT àleverage how mobile banking was once viewed, but now, it’s widely accepted
  • Security is driven by cost, too. It’s much different to secure thousands of devices versus millions or billions
  • Industrial IoT has an easier time to adopt due to the business case àefficiencies and cost of maintenance opportunities
  • Most exciting part of IoT? It’s the *THINGS*

  • Acquired Weather Underground 3 years ago that brought on 30-40K personal weather stations
  • TWC can forecast on-demand up to 2.2 BILLION precise locations (up from 2 million just a few years ago)
  • TWC draws data from barometric readings from phones, state Department of Transportation sensors, 650+ aircrafts
  • Bio-meteorology is the study of how weather affects plants, animals, people
  • Data without insights is useless… Chris cites how his heart rate jumped to 195 beats per min on a run… but what does that mean?

The Future of Wearables Panel

Lunch Keynote – Focus with Entrepreneurs and Startups Panel
  • Moderated by Jennifer Sherer (VP Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Metro Atlanta Chamber)
  • Panel included Brooke Beach (CEO of Kevy), Jon Birdsong (CEO of Rivalry), and Jesse Maddox (CEO of TripLingo)
  • Atlanta has done a good job bridging the two ecosystems of big companies and startups
  • To find and keep great talent, give team members ownership and ensuring they know they’re part of something big
  • Atlanta can help startups and entrepreneurs get more introductions to the larger companies
  • Getting customers enabled by: great relationships and making software easy to use and consumable – Birdsong
  • Is there a lack of capital in Atlanta? $500M was raised in ATL last year
  • There’s an increasing number of angel and seed funds in ATL àthis used to be the most difficult part of raising; now, it’s VC money
  • Atlanta has a brand awareness problem. However, Atlanta is ripe with startups who develop traction and have a solid business before raising capital
  • Atlanta’s startup ecosystem is vibrant and communal which fosters serendipitous connections

Wearables in Fitness and Healthcare Panel
  • Moderated by Chip Standifer, CTO at Virtual Design Group
  • Panel included Todd Charest (Chief Innovation and Product Officer at Ingenious Med), Joel Evans (VP Mobile Enablement at Mobiquity), and Francis Hoe (Commercial Operations at Misfit Wearables)
  • Asked if we’ve reached a “base” feature set of wearables, Francis doesn’t believe so. Instead, we’re still trying to define/ identify what a wearable is. There may, instead, be sub-categories such as wrist, patches, clothing, etc.
  • Today, 33% of wearable owners abandon their wearable within six months! 1 out of every 10 wearable owner in the U.S. owns one, but doesn’t even use it
  • Price and incentive (losing weight, being more productive at work, etc.) will be heavy influencers of wearable buyers tomorrow
  • Battery life of wearables is a massive opportunity
  • Interoperability of wearables is another big opportunity – how sensors on shoes, clothing, etc. communicate to show the whole picture
  • Are there other form factors beyond Wearables 1.0?
  • Asked if doctors are starting to trust the data, it’s based on liability understanding. Wearable data is yet another dataset that can reinforce prescriptions. The data still needs to all be connected and then be predictive
  • Wearables illustrate a back-end problem – connecting datasets across platforms… currently, there is no standardization, but there will need to be to be more medically supported

New Age of Video/ Media Consumed via Mobiles Devices Panel

Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Internet of Things Panel
  • Moderated by Rupen Patel, CTO at Mercurium
  • Panel included Jim Stratigos (Founder, CEO at Cognosos), Dennis Mehta (Managing Partner at Unity Group), and Dr. Deepak Divan (Georgia Tech and Varentec)
  • IDC cited market spend in IoT to hit $1.7T (yes, T = trillion) by 2020
  • IoT must span Software + Hardware + Analytics + Networking
  • Companies that best exemplify IoT today include those in automotive, business sector, industrial, and Nest (the only consumer story mentioned)
  • The best areas of IoT entrepreneurs can attack today include: high-value components like machinery (track these systems), sensors, and batteries
  • Wireless/ connectivity standardization was cited as a standard that can help IoT expand in the way TCP/ IP and HTTP elevated the internet
  • Emerging markets also represent significant opportunities for IoT
  • Toughest questions this panel of entrepreneurs faced from Board of Directors and Investors include: What are you going to be profitable (can be tough depending on ROI schedules between the market (utilities companies may have 10-year cycles) and investors (half-year cycles))? Why are you doing hardware?! (Competition fear à cost from certain markets)
  • Advice from the entrepreneurs: “just do it”; “jump now or sit on the sidelines and let others make the money”; and “convey your idea and value on one slide”
  • The analytics layer of IoT represents another golden opportunity

EBITDA. I’ve heard this term plenty of times over the years, and yet, I don’t know why it’s so important. Yes, I know EBITDA stands for “Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization”. However, of its importance, I know little of.

As I’ve done in the past, today, I’ll take a look at EBITDA as part of my series on Finance of Startups (yes, two posts in a row!).
The importance/ relative reasons for EBITDA:
  • Quick and dirty estimate for cash flows
  • Interest and taxes are omitted in EBITDA as they can be heavily impacted by losses from previous years, debt financing (argued should not be used to measure the inherent value of a company), etc.
  • Depreciation and amortization are non-cash items that can be heavily influenced by company decision-makers
  • Can be used to measure against other companies’ EBITDA as a proxy for cash flows and across industry averages

However, there are many critics to EBITDA:

  • Does not include working capital considerations (cash outlays for inventory, for example)
  • Interest and taxes are cash outflows, and with their removal, may over-value a company. And because they’re not included, EBITDA is not a true measure of a company’s cash flows
  • The omission of depreciation and amortization, though non-cash, fails to recognize useful lives of long-term assets and their eventual need to be replaced (think machinery which will eventually fail)
  • Not Generally Accepted Accounting Principles mandated (non-GAAP). As such, companies provide EBITDA as wanted, and because Earnings, Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization can be calculated differently from company to company, EBITDA can be massaged to tell a rosier picture and not be an apples-to-apples comparison

Investors like to use EBITDA as part of their valuation calculations of startups (okay, companies in general); though, like any metric, EBITDA may provide insight in a singular way. To overcome its shortcomings, EBITDA should be used in conjunction with other relevant metrics and ratios.