Marketing: The State of the Social Gaming Industry, October 2010

I just wrapped up a 20-page paper for my marketing class.  The project, called an “Integrated Strategic Marketing Plan”, required me analyze six aspects of a company of my choice, including an: Industry Analysis, Company Overview, Competitive Landscape Mapping , Customer Analysis, Value Chain Analysis, and a SWOT Analysis.  I chose to do my project for a friend who recently started a social gaming company which builds games for Facebook.  I selected his company rather than a publicly-traded firm (which would have made this project a lot easier!) because I wanted to not just get a grade in my class, but also help my friend analyze his business.  For obvious privacy reasons I can’t disclose the entire project on my blog; however, I am able to share my industry analysis.  Be prepared to learn about one of the fastest moving tech industry segments that I have researched during my five years of covering the technology industry. (more…)

Bing Gordon Speaks at USC

Better late than never.  Below is a week overdue summary of Bing Gordon’s speech at USC on October 14, 2010.  Bing was the Chief Creative Officer of Electronic Arts from 1998 to 2008 (after holding a myriad of other positions at EA since his involvement in its founding in 1982).  Today he is a Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.  As a Kleiner Perkins Partner, he sits on the board of some impressive companies, including Zynga and Amazon. If you want to learn more about Bing, here is his CrunchBase profile.  Bing is a light-hearted, insightful person, so be ready for an entertaining yet powerful discussion.

Before I dive into Bing’s discussion, I want to thank my classmate Ashkun Zaker for putting together the outline that served as the backbone for this post, an outline which I have edited and expanded.  Thanks for the guidance Ashkun!

Bing led off the night with an age breakdown (more…)

Free Video Content and Cutting the Cord

The intersection of television and the Internet is quite interesting.  It has Hollywood shivering, fearing that its industry is going to head the way of the record industry; it has technology entrepreneurs giddy, excited by the prospect of using Internet-connected TVs to disrupt content providers by providing free video content; it spells trouble for cable providers; and it reads opportunity for streaming video services.

Here are a few great articles and thoughts on why this “inevitable” switch to free video content might not happen so quickly (or at all), and how Netflix is evolving to become a potential threat to cable operators, while at the same time it’s a slave to the very cable firms that it is disrupting. (more…)

Readings: Solar, Terra Firma vs. Citi, Dividend Recaps, Facebook + Bing, Management Consulting

Silicon Valley’s Solar Innovators Retool to Catch up to China: Selling energy (a commodity) is all about price, which means in order to turn a profit in a competitive market when prices are driven down, one has to be able to produce at the lowest cost (or at least within a competitive low-cost band).  Competing with China’s subsidies, cheap labor, scale advantages, and not to mention depressed currency, is a hell of a battle.  I’m glad that I didn’t pick this fight at Solyndra with $1B riding on it.  But then again, as a U.S. tax payer, I guess I do have an interest in this fight by promising to lend Solyndra  $1.74 ($535M loan guarantee / 307M U.S. Pop.), so I do have a stake in this fight.  We better use technology to close the cost advantage, it’s our only hope.

Terra Firma, Citi in Spat over EMI: Wow.  This is an ugly tussle between a PE firm with buyer’s remorse and a bank double-siding a deal.  Kudos to Citi for a job well done; Terra Firma should just fess up to it’s mistake (but then again, if I were Terra Firma, I would be (more…)

Humor: 2010 Giants Anthem

I’m in the heart of studying for finals and drafting a term paper, but I have to share a little Giants fan joy with the masses.  After beating the Atlanta Braves yesterday and winning the series 3-1, the Giants are heading to the 2010 National League Championship Series against the Phillies.  Here is a newly minted video to celebrate not just the team, but also the fans.  Go Giants!!

Readings: Sourcing Investments, Tablet Computers, The 5% Rule, Electric Cars

Where are the Deals?: Finding (good) investments is a challenge in any investing discipline, and even more so in private company investments, either PE or VC.  This article shows the inefficiency in the sourcing process and provides strategies for improvement. Two items standout: 1) the benefits of building a specialized outbound origination program (e.g. TA Associates and Summit Partners) and 2) the concept of openly discussing your investment strategy via blogs (e.g. Fred Wilson at AVC, Jeremy Liew at LightSpeed Venture Partners and everyone at True Ventures).

Tablet Computers – Chasing King Apple: The tablet boom (or at least anticipated boom) is in full swing.  After years of being ahead of the technology curve, Motion Computing is now seeing some serious competition (and growth) in the market.  Apple is leading the pack, and others are jumping in head-first, including: Samsung, H-P and now BlackBerry.  I see a lot of parallels to the early PC market.   (more…)

Volunteering With Junior Achievement

Last Friday, 170 classmates and I volunteered with Junior Achievement (JA).  Our task was to teach kindergarten through fifth-graders at a downtown Los Angeles elementary school about topics such as entrepreneurship, the community and the nation. This was my first time volunteering with such a young demographic, so I was a bit apprehensive about the prospect of teaching a 3-hour lesson to a classroom of second-graders.  However, my apprehension was unfounded, because it quickly dissipated when I was confronted by the enthusiasm of the students; their interest, engagement and excitement in the learning process was impressive.  We did a handful of activities together that involved identifying jobs in the community (e.g. fireman, police woman, business person, etc.), and before I knew it, my time teaching the class was over.  After a round of departing hugs and handshakes it was time to head back to USC.

Readings: Dilution, Products vs. Features, and Distressed-Debt

Employee Equity – Dilution: A great read for entrepreneurs wondering what will happen to their capitalization table post-financing.  From experience, this looks about right and can inform decision making of those seeking VC financing.  I will look forward to a day when Fred Wilson expands on the interplay between VC ownership percentage, company pre-money valuation and round size.

Product vs. Features – The Lesson of XMarks: Great advice from Mark Cuban about building companies with defensible competitive advantages.  Be afraid of (more…)