In this interview, danah boyd of Microsoft Research discusses how, while people may share a lot of their information online, often they’re shaping what they hope we’ll perceive about them. Danah discusses how identity and perception are evolving in the Network Age.
One of the great conversations that started at Supernova 2009 was around “Building Startups Today.” What does it take to build a great startup today? And how do you get it funded and connected to a passionate customer community?
Translating traditional strategic practices in a digitally networked world. Beyond personal, product or economic innovation, institutions must innovate everything from their operations, to their attitudes, to their roles in industry and society. Our institutions are built upon infrastructures that cannot absorb digital networks much less re-tool around them. Large organizations will exist but they will be fundamentally different in structure and priority from how they operate today. Knowledge flow, not information flow. Relationships, not just transactions. The rationale of connecting people, not just the ability to do so. Context as well as content. Corporate infrastructures will not be the competitive differentiators they once might have been unless they invent new ways to create trust in relationships.
It’s not a financial crisis but the pivot of a shift in institutional performance. A long-term deterioration is back of the undoing of the financial markets: measuring the wrong indicators, inflating the value of outdated indicators, quarterly obsession. Research is showing that there is no correlation between productivity, product and process innovation, or customer value and return on assets. In fact, in the case of customers, they are realizing value at the expense of institutions, in multiples. And creative talent, who crave passion for their work, continue to leave institutions, taking knowledge with them — thus depleting a key 21st centure asset. Collaboration has not been rewarded, only touted. The global economy, whose infrastructure was shaped by Wall Street priorities, has been about the income of institutions, not their outcomes. Organizations must devise business models that are pull driven — pulling people, connections, relationships into their domains — not push oriented — pushing sales, products, services on the customer.
The right kind of startup can find the right kind of money. This market is a good filter over mediocre ideas; quirky concepts with potential value just do not cut it for the good funding sources. [When there's stupid money, dumb stuff gets funded.] You don’t need capital to try an idea — and sometimes, your side ideas are the ones that gain traction, so other people’s money isn’t desirable. Sustaining the bootstrap mentality after investment capital is attained is critical to success in this environment.
The best business model for startups is subscription based. It’s less risky for everyone, especially investors, if startups use free services as the bait for hooking subscriptions. The gambling VCs are currently few and far between, tending to fund things like outmoded inventory plays. If the traffic is there, it’s hard to ignore — but make sure you can monetize that traffic in ways other than advertising. When it comes to platforms, make sure you own the email addresses, because then you can stake a claim to user relationships.
After yesterday’s afternoon session, we spoke with Phil McKinney who is CTO of HP’s Personal Systems group, and also runs the Killer Innovations podcast. Phil spoke about innovation, how one becomes an innovation “expert” and what it takes to get innovation into organizations.
At yesterday’s Supernova opening day event, Adam Greenfield discussed how humans have gotten used to using our urban spaces. One thing cities have done is to let us “reinvent ourselves” and “wrap the cloak of anonymity around us.” Today’s Network Age technologies, including social networks, have changed some of these rules and assumptions. As our profiles and ‘permanent records’ follow us, how will behavior and norms change in response? What are the implications of our connectedness for cities and urban design?
“The glow in the theater used to be cigarettes – now it is the glow of cell phones, and kids texting to their friends, and their social networks from inside the movie.” This is how Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment described the immediacy of movie reviews and the way entertainment is commented upon, and potentially blasted by the Friday night it hits the theaters. The instant communication has changed what it means to be in the entertainment business.
One thing hasn’t changed. Even with all of our digital technology, “we don’t speak in 0′s and 1′s” Guber told me in our interview. All the digital storytelling in the world won’t move us – we are analog creatures, and the storytelling we enjoy has been baked into our DNA for thousands of years.
Thanks to Peter for taking the time to speak with us at Supernova.
Last hour, continuation of the talk by Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment, joined by Phil McKinney of HP, and the final part of the day, the Heather Gold Show, featuring Heather talking with Umair Haque, Robin Chase of Zip Car, and danah boyd.