Saturday, September 27, 2014

Momentum VC Offers Chats with Kairos Society and Ruckus Wireless Notables

The Momentum VC folks pulled off another good fireside chat last week at DG717.  I'm getting attached to these events for the peeks into how mobile startups make it happen from scratch.  I will try not to merely repeat the thought leaders' wisdom.

The entrepreneur dude who founded the Kairos Society explained his fascination with solving the world's problems.  He nailed Silicon Valley's insular tendency to build products for its own elites while ignoring the developing world's mobile market.  I'm pretty sure the average African will choose M-Pesa over Uber any day.  I am not as convinced that mobile devices have minimized their data security risks.  The celebrity photo hacking scandal of recent weeks shows that user-level security needs major work before mobile can truly be the front end of cloud storage.

If I were marketing some mobile solution in emerging markets, I would ensure it had a non-affluent, non-literate appeal.  It would have a non-text UI, allow for payments in small increments, and support an app ecosystem that targets verticals in the natural resource sector.  I also think M-Pesa would work in the US if the normal banking system were unable to transfer money in a crisis.  Apple Pay and Google Wallet are preparing the way for just such an approach.  Americans will have payment options in hyperinflation if those services can add digits up to a hundred trillion.

Mobile developers should also remember the Kairos guy's revelation that mobile use cases are not identical to desktop usage.  Smartphones bootup faster and are thus more responsive with functions like email that can't wait for bootup.  I await whatever developments the Kairos people can produce in synthetic biology, orbital space APIs, and platinum mining on the moon.  I guess tech people really do sit around thinking about going into space, based on what I heard at Momentum VC.

The Ruckus Wireless guy was up next.  I agree with his philosophy that money matters if it allows one to do great things.  His insight that the defense sector operates on a process orientation for Peter Principle managers is correct in my experience.  I will definitely follow his advice to always seek an unfair advantage in business.  I don't have as many academic contacts as I need but that is solvable with networking.  I may have aspects of the attention deficit disorder and laser focus that he endorsed.

I will repeat a couple of his best points verbatim.  He said to get a team of divergent minds who think differently from the founder.  Once they're assembled, get the smartest person in the room to ask the smartest question, then think of the simplest possible solution.  Well, I'm usually the smartest person in the room, so I will have to convene a panel of Nobel laureates for that level of input.  Extreme geniuses such as yours truly don't like organization charts or enterprise politics.  Thinkers live in the realm of pure ideas.  I much prefer that antiseptic approach.

I cannot name very many examples of a startup copying a market leader, aside from Google taking on Yahoo last decade.  It works if the leader chooses not to pull out all the stops on resources to fight back.  A market leader that does not fight back commits suicide.  Silicon Valley corporate development departments scan for emergent rivals they can buy or suppress.

Ruckus' guy also shared insights on how culture steers execution after management has stated its vision.  The US military is supposed to operate like that in theory but my experience revealed how culture often hindered execution.  Meetings that end in action items for specific staff members are IMHO the least evil type of meeting to hold.  I would like to see PayPal's anti-meeting culture in operation.  The good news I've been absorbing at many tech conferences is that automated workflows can direct tasks to the right action center with little in-person coordination.

I left DG717 thinking about how some Kairos reality hacker would write an API on the moon while a Ruckus Wireless techie was chasing some random, predatory disruption back on earth.  That's what they said they like doing.  I'll have to check in with Momentum VC again in a few months to see their progress.