The writing’s on the wall. Mobile is the future, and it requires different skill than the web. Entrepreneurship is more fetishized than ever, making standard hiring tough. The result is days like today where Yahoo, Twitter, Salesforce, and Box all bought startups, and Facebook and Microsoft were reported to be in talks for major acquisitions. Big is a scary thing to be right now.
The tech giant story goes something like this. You start as a visionary founder with a crazy dream. You recruit your friends to give it a shot. Suddenly there’s a breakthrough or some traction, and everyone wants to work for you. You’re small and nimble. Employees are trusted to make quick decisions, and the whole company can pivot on a dime to pursue a new opportunity.
But to beat competitors to the punch with the muscle to accomplish your dreams, you have to get bigger. Bureaucracy sets in and decisions take longer. You have too much momentum to shift directions. Allocating resources to chase a hunch gets tougher. You’re no longer the startup; you’re the giant. Despite your perks and hefty paychecks, no one wants to work for the giant. They want an adventure. The adventure you already had.
Then some punk kids come out of nowhere with the company you would have founded if you started five years later. You could try to build it now, but that’s too slow and they’re already winning. Or you could try to partner with them or someone else, but that’s messy and unreliable. You end up with a choice: They either eat your lunch or you buy their lunch. They disrupt you, or you acquire them.
So you buy them. Then you either keep their product running and reap the benefits while knowing they’re not a real danger to you anymore like Facebook did with Instagram. Or you shut down their product, fold their team in, and have them keep your core products relevant and evolving, like Box did today buying Adobe Acrobat-killer Crocodoc.
This same story has played out over and over again throughout the lifespan of Silicon Valley. But there are new factors putting even more pressure on the big guys to swallow up the little guys.
On the web, you threw everything at the wall, and anything that stuck even a little got left in the product. With plenty of screen real estate and instant rollouts of changes, you could afford to do too much. But mobile is minimalist. People want one app to nail one use case. It has to work in bite-size sessions. Bloat is painfully apparent.
You need not just mobile designers, or even mobile-first designers. You need mobile-best designers. The advent of the web happened slowly, and several generations of startups were built on it. A star product lead from a few years ago could work magic again. But mobile came on fast. Not necessarily in the advances in technology, but in adoption. Even just a year ago, mobile was thought of as an option. Now some giants like Facebook have more users on mobile than the web. You either “get” mobile, or you’re doomed. If you can’t build it, and you can’t hire it, you’re pretty much forced to buy it. Yahoo didn’t buy GoPollGo to concentrate on polling. It did it because the startup was mobile in its heart.
Blame it on the finance sector’s collapse, the seed funding explosion, Y Combinator, Instagram, and tech blogs like us. Chalk it up to an entitled generation where everyone wants to be their own boss, not a loyal soldier. Or say it’s mobile and the cloud’s fault for making it so easy to get a business to market. But whatever the cause, great tech talent is fragmenting. People are willing to gamble on the chance of having a huge impact on the world and getting rich at the same time. The people you want to hire aren’t applying and interviewing, they’re running their own companies.
Meanwhile for VCs, everyone wants to be the toast of the town by being the seed investor in a hot startup. That means anyone with a good idea, or some combination of an okay idea and a good track record/connections/academic pedigree can raise money and take a swing. And why not? Best-case scenario: You change the world, grow into one of the new power-players of Silicon Valley, and maybe sell or IPO for a boat-load of money. Worst-case scenario: You fail and lose (mostly) someone else’s money. You end up with a fundamental learning experience that will build character, maybe make you a better person, and quiet your professional wanderlust forever.
Plus now, thanks to the old giants’ scrambling to stay young, there’s a mediocre-case scenario: You sell while you’re still small, take a cushy job at a big company, work on something making a difference, and learn skills while you bide your time for your “next adventure.”
You could argue that all these acquisitions and acqui-hires are kneecapping innovation. That they’re preventing potential giants from ever hitting their stride. But few people are fighting for the abstract cause of “Innnovation” with a capital I.
Thanks to disruption insurance through acquisitions, it could be hard to truly kill Yahoo — a company many thought was marked for death years ago. Mark Zuckerberg disrupted Myspace in a blink of the Internet’s eye. But if he keeps buying talented teams and phenonema like Instagram rather than letting them mature into real threats, it could take a lot longer to displace Facebook.
Giants want to keep their dreams alive. Founders want to chase them. Acquisitions make both less likely to wake up to a nightmare.
Excerpt from: As Tech Giants Scramble For Talent, It’s Buy Or Die
Microsoft on Wednesday announced the new version of its SharePoint Online (SPO) product, a component of the company’s Office 365 service, is no longer in “Preview” (read: beta). The company says the SPO release is based on feedback it received, resulting in new features, better performance, a simple user experience, more admin controls, and the stability improvements.
Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t say when SPO customers will be able to “self-upgrade” to the new version beyond just the word “soon” – there’s no date to mark on your calendar. That being said, the company did say Office 365 customers will be notified “approximately four weeks” prior to their upgrade.
Furthermore, as is typical for products that enterprises uses, customers will have the opportunity to postpone the update (for a minimum of two months). Businesses will naturally appreciate the gesture, though as my colleague Alex Wilhelm notes, this quite an amusing decision for a Web app.
Still, it’s a necessary one. Even Google, known for pushing updates very quickly, delays new features for the enterprise side of its apps.
So, what exactly is new in the new SPO? Microsoft has a lengthy post explaining the top 10 features, which we encourage that you read. A brief overview is as follows:
Top Image Credit: Eastop
CodeNow, a nonprofit program that teaches coding basics to high schoolers (with an emphasis on reaching girls, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups), is in the middle of a significant expansion.
After launching in Washington, D.C., in 2011, the program has now launched in New York City and is currently holding training sessions with its first NYC group. In a few months, it’s going to select participants in its first fellowship program, which will take place over the summer. And later this year it plans to launch in San Francisco.
CodeNow’s curriculum uses tools like Hackety Hack (for programming basics) and Lego MindStorms (for robotics). It involves a combination of weekend sessions and online coursework, as well as a boot camp (held over the longer school breaks or on consecutive weekends) with “intensive training” in Ruby.
One goal of the program is to turn students into programmers. Founder and executive director Ryan Seashore said that of the 10 alumni who have now graduated from high school, three have gone on to study computer science. At the same time, he said that the program has benefits “even if a kid never writes a line of code after our program.” That’s because they’ll have training in how to “think logically” and are “no longer fearful of technology.”
Even though the program started (and will continue) in D.C., Seashore has moved to New York, and it sounds like he can be more ambitious with the NYC program, admitting more students, holding more classes, and launching the fellowship program.
“There was a real need and desire for a program in D.C. — the financial support was just harder to come by,” Seashore said.
Speaking of CodeNow’s fellowships, they will be awarded to the best students in the first two NYC cohorts, and they’ll include a full-time stipend for six weeks of software development training and work. Between their initial CodeNow training and the fellowship, Seashore said participants will receive “300 hours of in-person training,” and CodeNow will also try to connect them with internships at “awesome tech companies.”
I haven’t attended any of the sessions, but Seashore sent me a few of testimonials, just to give me a taste of the students’ enthusiasm. An 11th grader named Tahara said her “favorite part of the weekend was waking up for CodeNow.” Mamadou, a ninth grader, said, “My favorite part was attempting and writing codes to get the lights to turn on and off for the arduinos.”
When launching in NYC, Seashore said CodeNow received more than 250 applications, from which the team selected 13 girls and 12 boys. Seashore said CodeNow accepts applicants from all five boroughs of New York, and it provides subway cards to help the kids get to the training sessions in downtown Manhattan.
Mobile World Congress kicks off next week, and business and technology leaders from around the world will converge in Barcelona to see what’s next in mobile tech. But one thing you won’t find amid the keynotes, networking gardens, and after parties is a frank discussion about why mobile video continues to be a huge pain for viewers and broadcasters alike.
For many, the mobile video landscape is too fragmented and frustrating. The result is that people are missing tremendous opportunities to make money.
Let’s look at the data: new research from Cisco reveals that, for the first time, video accounted for more than half of all mobile traffic in 2012. They also report that “two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017.”
So why, then, is mobile video still an unsolved problem? The short answer is Android. The longer answer is that a number of power players refuse to work together and adopt universal standards for mobile video and instead battle for digital turf, confusing the rest of us in the process.
iOS and Android made up 91 percent of the smartphones shipped in Q4, 2012, according to IDC. While Apple got an early lead in the phone wars, Android shipped more than three times as many handsets last quarter.
But the problem goes deeper than mobile operating systems.
While most modern mobile devices support basic capabilities like H.264 decoding and progressive download and playback of MP4 files, more advanced functionalities like adaptive bitrate and live streaming, which are both fundamental to an enjoyable experience, vary greatly from one handset to another.
iOS devices have supported advanced use cases, including ABR and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) since 2009. Apple has continued to push the mobile video envelope and now enables state-of-the-art features such as mid-roll ad insertion. Android, on the other hand, remains a very fragmented platform. When it comes to video, the Android ecosystem can best be described as a work in progress.
Why is that the case? Fragmentation is by and large the biggest issue. Multiple hardware companies manufacture Android phones and tablets, and no two are the same under the hood. Android has also cycled through various video delivery protocols with each new dessert-themed iteration (what are they on now? Jelly Donut?).
Initially, Android supported RTSP as a streaming protocol, but the quality varied greatly. HLS support was first introduced in Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) but had a very limited implementation.
Today at the D: Dive Into Media conference, Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Corporation of America and Sony Entertainment, said that the rise of Netflix and DVRs are fundamentally changing the way that viewers watch TV content. And that now changes the type of content that is being produced and the quality of it.
The bigger paradigm shift here is the idea that consumers are getting used to binge-watching TV shows. And that, in turn, is changing the quality of content that is being produced… for the better. Lynton said that the rise of episodic TV — whether it be driven by cable shows like Mad Men or Sons of Anarchy, or by Netflix’s House of Cards — is accompanied by the idea that show runners no longer need to wrap things up neatly at the end of each episode.
The increase in episodic TV is also luring higher-quality actors, writers, and directors. Rather than trying to squeeze everything into an hour or two of TV, creators can now create longer-form, open-ended serialized dramas. “It’s one of the reasons you’re seeing explosion in creativity right now,” Lynton said.
Sony just re-upped its deal with Starz, but Lynton said that Netflix was definitely a player in the bidding for that deal. “They wanted to be a part of [the deal], and still want to get studios on the service,” he said. While the studio deal didn’t work out, Netflix still spends substantial money on licensing TV content, including some from Sony’s production studio.
“Netflix has always been a really good customer, and they continue to be a better and better customer,” Lynton said. That Netflix is providing a new revenue stream for TV studios, as well as changing the way people watch TV content, is helping to change the creative landscape for Sony and others.
See the original post: Sony Entertainment CEO Lynton Says Netflix, DVR Change The Way People Watch TV