What criteria I use when looking at investing in Start-ups


Two of the following elements need to be ready:

  • a core team,
  • directly relevant track record,
  • business ideas close to full business plan but changeable,
  • other potential investors,
  • an identifiable talent pool,
  • an emerging market,
  • an existing mature market attacked by disruptive technology and/or business model,
  • a directly relevant following numbers in hundreds (or thousands depending on industry),
  • a web of key influencer and decision makers in the targeted. markets
  • similar start-ups

May, 2009

Review of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris


The Good

I happen to have my own artistic and literary heroes the same as in Woody Allen’s latest 2011 romantic comedy Midnight in Paris, so I loved the film.  Brunel, Dali, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso… Is there room to fit more, yes, Rodin, Monet, TS Elliot…  A fitting comparison for the viewing experience would be an accidental find of an antique shop full of all the items you fantasized about from a previous golden era; and then some that you didn’t know you would fall for, nonetheless fall for them with wide eyes, a pumping heart, and a few giggles.  The cultural references may be highbrow, but Allen redeemed himself by making the quirky one liners humorous, if you get his references that it.  Woody Allen’s movie is rarely for everyone.  I’d think any attempt on the whimsical and the fantastic with a narrow set of references would not be an easy path for universal enjoyment.  Kids in a candy store can pass for the universal; but baseball cards of all MVPs of “world championship” MLB would not – as strange as this may sound to Americans.  I happen to love Paris, so listening to a love song written by Allen set in night clubs on Left Bank, slow walks around the White Church or in drizzle on the New Bridge, or panorama view from the center of the city worked just fine.

The Bad

It has been a tiring discussion that Allen is no Kubrick.  He does repeat himself a lot – Purple Rose of Cairo, Everybody Says I Love You, Bullets over Broadway, Vicky Christina Barcelona, to name just a few; though new elements do occur such as time travel within a literary and philosophical context that serves to the main plot and themes of the movie.  As much as I love all the cultural references, it does feel like indulgence at times, partially because they are simply piled up or laid one next to each other like library reference cards, or reading notes in a forgotten drawer.  Let’s try a more engaging metaphor, an avocado salad with froi gras, toro, uni, grilled salmon skin, cold smoked sable, colored with saffron and topped with condensed teriyaki sauce, all serve on top of a East Coast oyster in a half shell.  Yes, you indulgent food lovers, you know what I’m talking about.  Some Iron Chef would try and get away with it for novelty and excess in Las Vegas, but even the most indulgent Roman during a food orgy probably would wish that they come as six separate servings.  Plus, we would indulge ourselves to expect more sophistication from Allen at this point in his long accomplished career.

I’d see potential in a rough cut, if this part of the film – some three quarters of the whole movie – was a research first draft of compilation of a roster of famous actors doing auditions for their respective art and literature giants from a century ago.  For that reason, their acting also suffers.

The Ugly

The baseball cards reference is fitting here since almost all characters are cartonized.  While so many references jammed through the mid-night transcendence of the almost funny Owen Wilson – partially the charm of the movie – you may argue that it is hard to develop any of these characters.  You would be right, underdeveloped as characters, their lines are often forced.

Internet Trends in 2010 at Web2.0Summit: Are there more relevant perspectives besides a Wall Street view?


The following is a recorded video from Web 2.0 Summit 2010 by Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker on “Internet Trends”.

It’s always good and sobering – even with bullish commentaries – to get the hard numbers.  To do so through the eyes of financial industry seems even more solid than any other economical, sociological statistics.  This talk is one of only handful out of the many worthwhile Web2.o Summit talks that I paid careful attention, just to get the trends through financial numbers right.

What puzzles me however, not so much how Wall Street look at things, but how Web2.0 world look at Trends of Internet from a top-down, size and market-cap singular perspective.  The biggest story in the world of internet innovation, with only partial exception of Apple, is in the tail not in the head; and tent-pole successes are those that harnessing the power of the tail, be it  user-contributed content, friends generated networks, rapid innovations from start-ups.

I was hoping that at a Web2.0 Summit, we would examine the Internet Trends as how many start-ups, working on what subject areas; what the rate of innovations; how well big companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, Netflix, Microsoft are coping and co-opting these innovations (other events at the Summit does address some of these individually); the dynamics of these bottom up innovations such as their catalysts and their sustainability; and hopefully (wishfully) what can’t of educational and policy environment and even broader socio-cultural environment that foster such innovations and growth.

Related Slide

Web1- Internet with GUI, Web2 – App Web, Web3 – Context Web


The central concern for DARPA was decentralization, the basis of today’s P2P.  Real-time, ease of use, viral, network effect, self-service – all the pillars of what make Web ubiquitous, so large and pervasive beyond measurement, and so central to our lives, and continue to grow – came with the birth of the internet. TBL and others gave that internet a GUI, the rest is history.

We are living in a Web 2.0 world where not just message and emails, not just communities and contents, but applications are self-served, and virally networked, growing exponentially in real-time, with increasing ease of use closer and closer to natural languages and social and cultural norms. The self-serve applications, which is what distinguishes Web2 from Web1 is becoming the most important contextual medium for us human, and humanly contextualizing the web is the future of it – Web3.

Our heroes, who invented and evolved the Web, believe too much into the power of engineering. Think of how much the Chinese believe in stir frying things, or the French believing the power of their source, fresh ingredient, simplicity, original flavor, beauty in small nuances are left to Japanese Sushi, Tampura, or Italian cuisine. (OK, if you sufferred this far, I thought I’ll appeal to something little less tormented and pretentious. Now back to something completely different…) The promised of Semantic Web where many, if not all, human processes are automated by the Web, are still far in the distant. But the aggregate of massive individual small contributions combined with self-serve apps, network effects and other powers of the Web is releasing an awesome power. This is THE zen moment of the Web, less is infinitely more. Forget about communism, collectivism as we use to know, the key of the AppWeb turning into ContextWeb is its intrinsically human relevance, not the alienation of an abstract omnipotent collectivity as in 1984’s Big Brother, or Brazil’s Department of Information Retrieval. This emergence of  apparent “collectivist” Web3 is not collectivist at all, it starts with real individuals, and ends with real individual, and circling around with real individuals, mutually contextualizing between the WEb virtual world and the human world.


The Future Is All About Context: The Pragmatic Web

The semantic Web has long been heralded as the future of the Web. Proponents have said that Web experiences will some day become more meaningful and relevant based on the AI-esque computational power of natural-language processing (NLP) and structured data that is understandable by machines for interpretation.

However, with the rise of the social Web, we see that what truly makes our online experiences meaningful is not necessarily the Web’s ability to approximate human language or to return search results with syntactical exactness. The value of the semantic Web will take time because the intelligent personal agents that are able to process this structured data still have a long way to go before becoming fully actualized.

This guest post was written by Alisa Leonard-Hansen.

Rather, meaningful and relevant experiences now are born out of the context of our identities and social graph: the pragmatics, or contextual meaning, of our online identities. My Web experience becomes more meaningful and relevant to me when it is layered with contextual social data based on my identity. This is the pragmatic Web.

We need to better understand our identity as it begins to define our experience of the Web and the network-enabled world we inhabit. Our online identity will increasingly be defined by three “pillars”: who I say I am, what I do and say, and who I connect to (and who connects to me).

To clarify, our online identities are comprised primarily of three specific kinds of data:

  • Explicit or prescriptive data (i.e. the data that I input about myself: name, age, occupation, etc.);
  • Activity or behavioral data (i.e. what I do and say online);
  • Relationship data (i.e. my social graph and what my connections say about me).

If we consider the power of this pragmatic Web (a highly relevant and individualized Web experience based on the ubiquity of our identity data), we find that it not only impacts individual user experience, but that it opens up entirely new opportunities for business online. The future is not “business as usual.” Business models will be based on what Elias Bizannes of the Data Portability Project calls the “information value network-economic value,” derived from services that focus on activities with comparative advantage and that leverage free access to data.

Consider this: as media companies scramble to identify new and innovative ways to advertise to the sea of nameless, pixeled users who graze through their content each day, a rich supply of highly valuable identity data lies just beneath the surface, left unmeasured and unmonetized.

Facebook is nothing more than perhaps the largest single database of this kind of online identity data: explicit, activity and relationship data. With the development of Facebook Connect, which allows for the “open” exchange of Facebook user data between Facebook and third parties, Facebook could conceivably (and will) create an Facebook Connect ad network (read: data exchange), supplied by the valuable and highly targetable user identity data that is currently siloed on Facebook’s servers. This identity data within Facebook is what makes the activity in “social media” so valuable.

But the centralization of identity data on one or two major networks (such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace) won’t realize the vision of the pragmatic Web. So, how will the pragmatic Web come to be? How do we realize the power of a dynamic Web that is based on our identities? We do so by empowering individuals to access and control their identity across any site or service, through standards that enable data portability and open Web inter-operability. The resulting vision is that of a highly personalized, dynamic, relevant and remixable Web experience, yielding greater access to information through discovery, communication and collaboration. For enterprise, this could mean the rise of innovative new business models, based on data-driven value exchange.

One final note on identity data as it relates to enterprise. As Bizannes points out, the value of this kind of identity data rests on the key factors of time and timeliness. Essentially, identity data is valuable only if it is recent. Facebook wouldn’t be able to sell your (permissions-enabled) data to advertisers if it used your explicit data from a year ago rather than from today. So, Bizannes argues that real-time “access” to someone’s identity matters most, and it’s no longer about data “capture.” Thus, as new business models arise out of monetizing permissions-enabled identity data, the value of the business models will depend on these entities having real-time access to the data.

Contextualize movie making – crowd sourcing: Rotterdam Film Festival turns to audiences for film funding


To follow-up on the post last week, here is one latest development to tie film financing with crowd sourcing, to online aggregation of meaningful peer-to-peer connections. This is a limited attempt. The same approach can extend to the whole creative and commercial processes surrounding multi-media story telling.

All efforts like this shall be applauded for its very effort of harnessing the power of the Web and new forms of technology and social and cultural formation into renewing the life of the great human tradition of story telling.

International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) is stepping up it move into the digital future with a new scheme that will encourage audiences to help finance new films

Cinema Reloaded, which launched today (December 3), will begin by seeking funds for new movies by three directors: Alexis Dos Santos (UK/Argentina), Ho Yohang (Malaysia) and Pipilotti Rist (Switzerland). These film-makers – who all have close relationships with Rotterdam – have agreed to make short movies costing between $45,274 (€30,000) and $75,413 (€55,000).

The first part of the project will including raising finance for the film through the festival’s supporters and from film lovers around the world through a dedicated web site.(www.cinemareloaded.com). The idea is that patrons invest through the website in “coins,” which will be used to pay for the three movies. Each coin is worth $7.5 (€5).

Once production has begun, backers will be able to track their chosen project, talk to other investors and to interact with the film-maker. The films will be premiered at the 2011 festival.

“[Cinema Reloaded] is very much based on the belief that digital technologies will not replace cinema but that they will renew it,” IFFR Director Rutger Wolfson said. “It’s very much an experiment to investigate the potential of new forms of financing and distribution. Obviously, the existing models are very much under pressure and we as a festival care very much about films finding an audience. This just seems like a very obvious thing to do.”

Wolfson added that the scheme is designed to increase “interaction” between film-makers and their audiences and to make the filmmaking process more “transparent.”

IFFR will retain the Benelux DVD and theatrical rights to the film. If the experiment is a success, it will look to finance features as well as shorts through Cinema Reloaded.

The 39th International Film Festival Rotterdam runs from 27 January to 7 February 2010.

Movie review – The Messenger


The Good

* The lessons are all cliches, but true. It’s great to be able to deliver the rather conventional meanings through the drama of a movie
* The director was able to pull it off due to the great acting by Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Steve Buscemi
* Along with Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”, this Moverman’s directorial debut is much needed for the thinking and reflective public (small as it is, certainly noticeable in New York City)

The Bad

Several key scenes that had my hope build-up but failed to delivery

* The kitchen scene with Olivia
* The post fist fight, drunken road trip, singing Home on the Range
* The “morning after” scene in the woods after the Wedding party crusher
* The “coming out” scene on the coach watching Tornado on TV with Will’s War story told to Tony. Though the scene was saved by Tony’s cry with a good camera angle and Will’s controlled respect. Kind of late in the story to bond for friendship sake, don’t you think? The shock of the horror of the war, and irony of being a decorated hero…  Didn’t we just have half dozen episodes of those?

The Ugly

* A warm ending with hope in Oklahoma?
* As controlled as the movie tries, too much were going on which strangely make one feels not enough is there.  It’s so understandable that you want to do so much with your first feature film; or the marketing company got the final say, etc. etc. But a steady hand in the editor and/or director could turn these materials into a better film.

25 All Time Favorite Movies


  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)
  • Annie Hall (1977)
  • As Good as It Gets (1997)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Born Into Brothels (2004)
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
  • City of God (2002)Cidade de Deus
  • The City of Lost Children (1995) La cité des enfants perdus
  • The Crying Game: Collector’s Edition (1992)
  • Delicatessen (1991)
  • The Doors (1991)
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
  • The Fifth Element (1997)
  • Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Gandhi (1982)
  • Heavy Metal (1981)
  • Indie Sex (2-Disc Series) (2007)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • The Lives of Others (2007) Das Leben der Anderen
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Spirited Away (2001) Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
  • Talk to Her (2002)Hable Con Ella
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being: SE (1988)