The ‘So What’ Of The Quantified Self

Assuming that each of us has a picture of the “real world superhero” we want to become someday, then the optimal way to level up and reach that goal begins with the ability to measure and score our lives. Thankfully, new technologies in mainstream gadgets like iPhones and the Nike+ enable this kind of measurement, and are fueling the so-called Quantified Self movement, starting with the continuous tracking of various aspects of our physical bodies.

Using sensors in our smartphones and other wearable devices, we can chart how many calories we burn, our body fat percentage, how many steps we take in a day, how long we sleep — even how many hours a week we spend commuting or sitting at a desk. Soon we’ll be able to access the same kind of statistics on our digital selves: Social reach and influence; tastes and preferences; achievements; credibility and reputation; habits; expertise.

All that information at your fingertips at all times theoretically allows you to carefully chart a path for improvement—and share your winning strategy and stats with others. On a grand scale, that makes for an interconnected world of healthier, happier people making much more informed decisions. Continue Reading

Going Green: Investing In Consumer Focused Energy Tech

In recent years, the revolutionary opportunities in the energy sector have attracted billions of dollars from early stage venture investors. But the venture world has learned some hard lessons on the difficulty of building energy businesses: they face science risk, often take a long time to scale and can be capital intensive.

While the overall appetite for venture-backed energy suppliers has cooled, we believe there are abundant opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate on the ‘demand-side’ of energy markets. We are seeing a wave of new energy companies developing technologies focused on energy efficiency. Alas, most of these companies fall short when it comes to bridging that crucial gap between technical innovation and customer adoption. Similar to the trend toward consumerization of IT, we believe the companies that are poised to explode and redefine the energy tech landscape are the ones that are putting the consumer in the driver’s seat. Their value goes beyond the promise of energy efficiency, to deliver products and services that delight users, make them accessible through innovative business models, and understand the mindset of the energy consumer.Continue Reading

All The World’s A Game

dungeons-dragonsAs a lifelong gamer, I grew up fascinated with role-playing games, from pen-and-paper fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, to computer-based RPGs like Ultima and Wizardry. I’ve spent thousands of hours crafting and “leveling up” dozens of alternate personas, tuning their stats and experience point allocations across various character traits, and charting their virtual careers. I’ve always loved exploring all the different possible attributes and powers to minimize or maximize, and then mapping out how to achieve the optimal configuration for my style of play.

Several years ago I started wondering, “What if real life were the ultimate role-playing game? What character class would I be, and what would my current level be? Which skills would I go deep in and master?”

What started out as a fun thought experiment grew into a bit of an obsession — not only in how I approach life personally, but also in my job as a venture capitalist. Having been an early investor in social gaming and backing companies like Playdom, ngmoco, Lumos Labs, and Badgeville, I’ve witnessed the interplay between “real world” social media and “in game” behaviors generate tremendous value (Playdom was acquired by Disney for $763M, and ngmoco was bought by DeNA for $403M; Lumos Labs and Badgeville continue to grow like weeds). Now Gamification (the application of game mechanics to non-game fields) influences much of my ongoing thinking and investment.Continue Reading

The Big Deal On Big Data

In tech circles, the new paradigm of handling massive volumes of information has dominated the discussion about the future of enterprise for a while now. Two years ago, a cover story in The Economist offered tips on how to prepare for the “new world” of Big Data. As recently as February 12, the New York Times reported that data measurement could be the 21st century equivalent of the invention of the microscope.

So, what’s the big deal about Big Data?

Until recently, Big Data has been the darling of the largest companies – Facebook mines 845 million users’ constant stream of comments, links and photo postings to understand user motivation and optimize services; Google analyzes billions of search results to tailor high-value advertising programs. Even outside of the tech world, American Express and Visa have spent billions creating data banks capable of managing immense volumes. Storage and analytics are not an issue for these well-capitalized giants, but most organizations have lacked the technologies and specialized skills needed to harness complex data and extract useful insights.Continue Reading

The Mobile Revolution: Startup Ideas For Changing The World

We have entered the mobile era of computing. And just like the previous eras – those of the mainframe, then the client-server and the PC – the mobile era is a fundamental shift with a new set of problems to solve.

The key to the mobile era is that it’s all about delighting and empowering the end user. The end user interacts with technology the way he/she interacts with the world around them. It will be hard for incumbents to embrace this new paradigm, just as it was hard for mainframe-era leaders to dominate the world of PCs, or for PC giants to pivot to embrace the Web. Similar to how Cisco and Polycom pioneered telepresence, but it took Skype to bring videoconferencing to the masses, we believe that a new mobile world order will emerge, with leaders being created by entrepreneurs and disruptors.

Three trends are shaping these opportunities.Continue Reading

Big Data Meets Ad Tech

By Tim Chang and Tim Hanlon, CEO, Vertere Group

The brand ad market is massive (multi-multi $B), with 67% of worldwide ad spend in branding.

However only 25% of digital ad spend is in branding and the online brand ad market is still relatively primitive for these reasons:

  • No standards or consistent measures of “success” other than outdated or inadequate metrics like CPM and CTR (clickthrough rate)
  • Limited real-time intelligence
  • Unsuitable display ad formats (still mostly banners)
  • Lack of creativity in formats

Today, marketers and their agencies are overwhelmed by media choices, and departments are not optimized for a data-driven future of real-time bidding in the digital world. Online advertising is driving the need for a new breed of marketer who can handle an exponential blizzard of data sets (external and proprietary) and derive actionable marketing insights/decisions. As a result, CMOs and CIOs are cross-pollinating, driven by CRM/loyalty programs tied to increasingly granular media measures.Continue Reading