Jeff the Great Innovates

While walking home from my morning coffee I was thinking some random thoughts about technology...specifically computers. Figured I'd write them down for future reflection.

I was recently reading an article in Fortune magazine about Steve Jobs and came across an interesting story about Henry Ford. He apparently said something like 'if I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me they wanted a faster horse.' In other words, we tend to think in the confines of what is in our world. So what if we were to eliminate the limitations of our technology?

Here is what I've been contemplating lately:
  • Why are silicon wafers still round? I mean, I know why they are round, but why can't we change that? There is a lot of waste when producing computer chips. Look at all the wasted space on solar panels. Couldn't all sorts of waste and inefficiency be eliminated with square shaped wafers?
  • Why are the pathways on computer chips linear and with 90 degree angles? Do straight lines always use space more efficiently than curved lines? Maybe they do, I don't know.
  • Why can't I carry extra processing power in my pocket, to be plugged into my computer when I am doing processor intensive computing? If I can buy an Intel processor for under $75, why can't someone put that in a pocket size 'drive' and add some software to make this new external unit into auxiliary processing power? I sometimes do such intense Excel work that my entire computer freezes for 5+ minutes while Excel commands 100% of my processing power. Sure would be nice to plug something in to give my laptop a little bit of help.
  • Speaking of utilizing computer processors, lets talk about all the other gadgets I own that run on a processor. Wouldn't it be great if I could 'lend' the processing power of my Blackberry, Playstation or your iPhone to help my desktop do some work? I mean, all those devices have powerful computer chips just sitting in them, unused most of the time. Lets put them to work!
  • And finally, why isn't every TV also a computer monitor and every computer monitor a TV? I mean really, they are the same thing. And for that matter, why doesn't every set top box plug right into my home internet network? Is there any reason that my cell phone can connect to the internet but my cable box cannot?

So, who is gonna go out there and solve these problems? and don't bother leaving comments as to why all these things are the way they are, I really don't care. Let's start innovating and doing things differently.


Jeff the Great Witnesses the Death of the Newspaper

I was at my favorite locally owned coffee shop today and something interesting happened. The was a small stack of Oregonian newspapers at the cash register counter. I paid for a copy because I wanted to see one of my projects mentioned on page A6. The price these days is $1. First paper I had bought in a few months.

Later as I was reading in the coffee shop, two women came in and ordered coffee. A minute or two later, one of the women walked back to the counter, grabbed one of the Oregonian newspapers that was for sale, walked back to a table and proceeded to take it apart to read. She didn't pay for it.

It dawned on me that this was a living example of how consumers no longer expect to pay for news. This woman was probably 20 years old or so. Odds are she has never paid for a newspaper in her life! She apparently assumed that the newspaper at the register was free!

Guess I was pretty dumb for actually paying $1 for something that so many others get for free.

Jeff the Great Writes Letter to the Editor

I recently read an article in Fortune Magazine about Sequoia Capital, one of the worlds top 3 great venture firms (in my opinion at least). The story was mostly on Sequoia's bumpy entry in asset management but the author also profiled their core venture business, calling it' successes "a mixed bag."

I disagree, I think Sequoia has been stellar in recent years and I anticipate their investors are very happy. So I wrote a letter to the editor which I have copied below:

To the Editor-

In the Nov 9th issue, you published a great story by Adam Lashinsky about Sequoia Capital (published online 10-23-09). In addition to profiling Sequoia's struggling new business, Mr Lashinsky also commented on their core business, calling it's performance a mixed bag. Not only do I disagree with this assessment, a lot has happened in the weeks since the story was first published.

In venture capital, it frequently only takes 1 strong exit for fund to be a success. Your article mentions successful exits from Sequoia companies such as Zappos, Pure Digital and A123 Systems. I am not familiar with exactly which funds the investments in these companies came from, but even if they came from three different Sequoia funds, I'd say these are enough to consider Sequoia a huge success. They alone account for over $3BB in exits. (Another exit you didn't mention is the IPO of Peak Sport in Hong Kong, that's another few billion)

Since the story was published, two more exits are in the works as of the time I write to you. Google has announced an agreement to acquire AdMob for $750 million and just today MySpace is said to have purchased the assets of iMeem...both are Sequoia investments mentioned in your article.

The article also mentions companies such as LinkedIn (with its $1BB valuation) that have yet to exit. Another company worth mentioning is Portland, Ore based Jive Software. Sequoia is the only investor in this profitable and fast growing company. The cconsensus in the industry is that Jive is only a year or two away from a strong exit. LinkedIn and Jive are almost sure bets to produce another few billion.

So even though Sequoia's asset management group has struggled, their core business performance is far from a mixed bag.

Jeff the Great