Connecting the dots: Evaluating new business opportunities

I’m heavily back into the New York City startup scene and – phew, it’s a hopping one. Recession schmecession.

Had the pleasure of recently attended a party mixing VCs and startups (many already operating, some not) and I honestly have more fun listening to the startup’s business pitches and evaluating (sometimes in my head, sometimes freely giving my two cents’ worth!) the market potential than just about anything; the neurons start firing, the dots connecting (a la my previous post…..).

There’s a big party going on my head, just hearing all the ideas and “seeing” opportunities way beyond what they think their business is about.

The companies are all tech-based, and seem to pick one super small sliver of the tech universe and just madly scramble with 150% effort to get it running; I noticed this in Silicon Valley too, many startups just madly chase making the initial idea a reality…what they often miss, though, is the business savvy to see the larger strategic opportunities – which is a shame.

So many good ideas just don’t see market success because they are too focused on one idea without seeing the bigger picture – opportunities, partnerships, even threats; my head is all a-buzz.

It’s fun for me because I get to combine my love of tech and trend spotting with my MBA roots (which I get to use all too infrequently lately *sigh*). What I wouldn’t give to work with either a VC or consulting firm to help evaluate businesses – or help established companies develop plans to identify opportunities from emerging tech in our increasingly complex world! McKinsey, are you listening?!

Connecting dots: Understanding the strategic process

I regularly get asked, “how do you come up your blog entry subjects?” – and my standard answer is, I notice things, then connect the dots.

And then I saw a wonderfully quirky little movie tonight, a documentary about a man (Bill Cunningham) who has spent decades spotting and documenting trends in fashion on the streets of NY. I love this quote:

…see, I don’t decide anything – I let the streets speak to me…In order for the streets to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is…You just don’t manufacture in your head that skirts at the knee are the thing, and you go out and photograph skirts at the knee…You’ve gotta stay on the street and let the street tell you what it is.

It struck me how well he described what goes on in my own head/gut, when thinking about what’s happening in – and then forecasting – the tech world.  He notices one person doing something, then sees it again later, and then watches for it, and voila! – he’s spotted a trend. He doesn’t judge, he just notices. And constantly scans, then connects the moving dots.

Which describes it perfectly.

I see an article. I see someone repost it. Then, I see another person refer to the concept in the article. Twice is usually enough to guarantee a potential meme.

Of course I’ve got a databank of personal theories and experiences to refer to – unconsciously matching up the two – just like Bill Cunningham, who sees a shape that reminds his of a prior shape, then recognizes the influence and voila! – has uncovered a current or theme that’s being resurrected. I can only imagine how large his personal databank is at 80+; he has indeed probably seen it all.

Once a current (trend) emerges on the edges of my conscious periphery, insights or explanations come from extrapolating the inevitable trajectory using a handful of variables (human psychology, business trends, personal professional experience, macro economics, and a dose of “common sense”). Plus a wee bit of magic pixie dust…which probably explains using Sea Monkeys when thinking about augmented reality.

As many of you know, I’m currently in the job market and would love to work in strategic development at a company that’s at the forefront of developing the next generation of technology, or even better – be involved with envisioning what that future will look like, then work with companies to help them understand how they can play in it, and start working on developing the products and services that’s right for them now so they can stay/become market leaders in the future.

I’m open to any suggestions about who I should be talking to, so dear readers – if you have any ideas, let me know!

Developing the Grand Unified Theory

I muse on the intersection of three subjects constantly:

  • Technology: I’m fascinated by how we use it, interact with each other using it, and how it’s changing us.
  • Culture: That amorphous, nebulous, indescribable water we swim in.
  • Psychology: Fascinating. How our brains develop and work. Nature vs nurture. Universal stuff inherent to being mammalian animals. Interpreted locally by culture.

In this blog I’m going to muse and opine on the strategic direction of technology, and where I think it’s going – based on the key input from the other two subjects (and any others that take my fancy). Crystal ball read. Touch the future.

I’ve been working in technology-related industries for 18 years or so now, consulting to a variety of companies on how emerging technologies are impacting on their markets – and helping them figure out what to do to stay competitive. It’s a cool space.