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Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple’s Forgotten Founder Living in the Nevada Desert

Have you ever heard of Dick Taylor? Dick Taylor, along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, was a founding member of the Rolling Stones. But Taylor decided to go back to art school, so the Stones hired bassist Bill Wyman to replace him just as they were preparing to record the band's first album. As a result, Taylor became one of the great “what if” stories in rock history. Have you ever heard of Ron Wayne? Ron Wayne is technology’s equivalent of Dick Taylor. One of the great “what if” stories of Silicon Valley, nay, the enter technology industry. Wayne was one of three men present at the “birth of cool” when on April Fool’s Day 1976 – along with Steve Jobs and Steve WozniakApple Computer was launched. Not only was Wayne one of the founders of the new computer company, he was the guy who designed the company’s logo, wrote the users manual for the first Apple I computer, and drafted the company’s partnership agreement. That partnership agreement gave Wayne 10 percent ownership in the fledgling company. That tidy little slice of the pie that would be worth $22 billion today – if only Wayne wouldn’t have sold it back to Jobs and Wozniak 12 days after the company’s launch for a mere $800.
Ron Wayne
Wayne was 42 years old and working at Atari when he met up with 21-year-old Steve Jobs who was freelancing at the video game company started by Nolan Bushnell. Jobs had already met up with Wozniak and the two had created a prototype of the Apple I that they had demonstrated at the Homebrew Computer Club that met on the campus of Stanford University.
The Apple I
Jobs and Wozniak knew they were onto something with their new machine, but their wildly different personalities, and approach to business, threatened to kill their project before it could off the ground. They turned to Wayne for “adult supervision.” Wayne would give the two Apple partners counsel, help them resolve disagreements and provided business advice. For his valuable input, Jobs and Wozniak asked him to join them in their venture and carved off 10 percent of the company ownership for him. Once all three had signed the partnership agreement, Wayne took it to the county registrar’s office and Apple Computer became an official company. Almost immediately after becoming a legal entity, Jobs plunged the company deep into debt when he took out a $5000 loan and bought $15,000 worth of computer parts to fill an order for 50 computers for the Byte Shop in Mountain View, California. Wayne was impressed with Jobs’ salesmanship, but was nervous about the amount of money the company owed. Byte, an early Silicon Valley computer store, had a reputation for being slow to pay its bills and Wayne worried if Apple would get paid before their loan payment came due. Jobs and Wozniak, both in their early 20s at the time, were penniless. So if creditors came after Apple for its debt it would be Wayne that they targeted. Wayne just wasn’t ready for that type of risk, so less than 2 weeks after he helped launch Apple, Wayne asked Jobs and Wozniak to buy him out. It was back to the county registrar’s office for Wayne where he renounced his involvement in the company. For that he was paid $800. A year after Wayne left the company, Jobs and Wozniak filed the paperwork for incorporation and contacted Wayne asking him to officially forfeit any claims against the company. Wayne did so and received an additional $1,500, bringing his total payment from Apple to $2,300, almost exactly a millionth of what his shares would be worth today. Today, Wayne is living a simple life in the desert town of Pahrump, Nevada where at age 76 he supports himself by selling stamps are rare gold coins to supplement his government social security checks. But one has to wonder, what if?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

French Innovation Meets Silicon Valley

Last evening I attended the 4th Annual French Tech Tour event put on by UbiFrance, the French agency for international business development. Out of many applicants, UbiFrance had selected an exemplary group of 15 emerging French companies to travel to Silicon Valley for the opportunity to engage the local Valley start-up ecosystem in a series of events and meetings. UbiFrance director, GaĆ«tan Gachet, and his team organize a great week for the selected companies, culminating in a Sand Hill Road reception attended by VCs, company execs and Francophiles. The evening’s program consisted of brief presentations by the 15 companies and a panel discussion featuring industry luminaries on what entrepreneurial foreign companies need to do to be successful when coming to Silicon Valley. This was followed by a reception where the participating companies informally presented and demoed their products. The panel was interesting, with good recommendations for entrepreneurs to be open, network extensively, listen and learn when they visit Silicon Valley. Among the participants, CRN Systems Editor, Damon Poeter, provided comments that most resonated with 3Point. “Get good PR. Make sure you engage the media in the right way. Be open, make friends. Tell a story and the whole story. Not only tell the technology story but the whole story of how you came to be and what you are all about.” 3Point agrees with Poerter that the story is key to any company's success and is why our focus is on helping our clients define and tell their stories through our Navigator process.
The 15 companies covered a wide range of technology categories. Some of my personal favorites among the companies included Lexip, which makes a very cool 3D mouse (CEO Eric Delattre pictured left holding his device), and Laster Technologies, which has a fascinating augmented reality solution (CEO Zile Liu pictured right explaining augmented reality). Other well represented categories included mobile -- Arkamys, which has developed technology to greatly increase the audio quality from mobile devices, along with MobileGov and Mobile Distillery -- and cloud computing -- LYaTiss and MLslate. Green tech was represented as well with EcoVadis, which took the top prize of the evening for its pioneering sustainable supply chain management solutions. Names the top start-up of the group, Ecovadis will receive a one-month, all expenses paid stay at the Plus and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley.
Check out all the companies participated: · ActivNetworks · AlphaUI · Arkamys · Avob · DelfMEMS · EcoVadis · LASTER Technologies · Lexip · LYaTiss · MLstate · Mobilegov · Mobile Distillery · Prim’Vision · Relaxnews · UbicMedia This representation of French innovation was fascinating and whets my appetite for a trip to France in coming months. For you readers out there, what other emerging French companies should we keep an eye on? Bon Weekend!

Smartphones a big hit in France

I came across an interesting article in Les Echos this week. According to a survey by GroupM and SFR, four million French connect to the Internet daily from their smartphone -- that's about one of every thirteen citizens over the age of 15. Mon Dieu! However, only 18 percent of mobile phone users have a smartphone. The moral of this story seems to be if users get their hands on a smartphone they will use them and use them a lot. Orange, with its recent announcement of a range of Android-based phones from Sony Ericsson, LG, HTC and Samsung for less than 49 euros, is well positioned to make customers out of the the 82 percent of French mobile phone users who don't yet posses a smartphone. If the smartphone market booms in France, as it appears to be primed, it will be a welcome boost for the economy overall as carriers, equipment providers, handset manufacturers, mobile content developers and advertisers all stand to benefit.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

BP Ignored Lessons From The Past

Honestly, at this point is there anything BP can do to even remotely repair its deeply tarnished image resulting from the horror in the U.S. Gulf Coast?

The unnatural disaster is now more than 50 days old with environmental  ramifications that will persists for decades to come.  Like the war in Afghanistan and the on going challenge in Iraq, news of the the oil spill disaster along the Gulf Coast has fast become part of our daily lives.  The images of injured wildlife and interviews with business owners whose lives depend on the bounty from the Gulf waters appear daily on the 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. news broadcasts and all over the net. 

For most of us, the disaster is emotionally close but physically distant.  But for too many Americans, the oil spill is personally and professionally disruptive -- and with a long road until the finish line.

The massive oil slick  is one disaster.  And is one, it seems, that could have been prevented.

The way BP has handled the situation from a communications perspective is yet another disaster.  Also, it is one that could have been prevented from at least spiralling out of control.

You'd think that the brightest minds at BP would have known to not repeat the communications mistakes made by the many global brands whose own disasters preceded BP's.  BP had its pick.  There's the chapter on FEMA and Katrina.  Or the chapters on Tyco and EnronBarry Bonds or the Catholic Church.  And perhaps the grand daddy of them all -- Exxon Valdez.

The list goes on and on.  The lessons are there, in black and white.

The latest communication on BP's web site, appearing just today, is that the company is going to donate the net revenue from the oil it recovers from the Mississippi Canyon 252 oil well to restore the environment and habitats in the Gulf Coast region.

And if you don't think that fulfills BP's commitment to repair the damage done by the oil spill, well, you're wrong.  Because, as BP adds on its site, "The creation of this fund is over and above BP's obligations under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990."

That's right. The establishing of the fund is "over and above" what the law says BP must do in the wake of the accident.  Wow. Talk about a failure to communicate.

BP continues to communicate to the world about one of the the world's largest unnatural disasters on its own terms.  Even though the global world of communications professionals is at its disposal and almost begging to assist a brand that is sinking like a stone. 

What's past is past.  But if BP chose to listen, here are five ways -- from among many more -- it might have protected the brand it has been building for 100 years:
  • Present an objective and honest assessment of the situation as soon as they had a good measure on things.  Tell the world this is a first for BP and the oil industry at-large and that they are unsure if known methods of plugging a massive oil leak will work in this particular situation.
  • Don't create false expectations.  Tell the world a number of proven and untested techniques will be deployed and that the outcome, due to the uniqueness of the situation, is uncertain.
  • Keep the lawyers at arm's length. While liability is certainly an important consideration, the company also has to think about its long term reputation and the viability of the organization.  It's not just about getting through the crisis at hand but is also about reputation recovery and sustainability.
  • Put out as much information for public consumption as possible and not only the information the company wishes to control.  Transparency will earn trust over time. Most people can see spin coming from a mile away.
  • Instead of insisting on CEO Tony Hayward as the primary crisis spokesperson, solicit the support of a trusted, honest communicator who would be perceived as more objective than a company executive drenched in the company's stock. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

iThis iTime iApple iDots iThe "i"

Apple is a great marketing company. And as Bill pointed out in his post here earlier today, they also make some pretty good products; the kind that sneak into your life and then become so integral to the way you live that you really miss them when they're gone.
For Bill it's his iPad. For me, it's the older, but just as cool, iPod. I have the 60Gb version loaded with more than 50 days worth of music. That's right. I can carry around 50 days worth of tunes in my shirt pocket.
But as great as Apple's products are, I have to admit that I'm getting really sick of the "i" nomenclature. Not everything in the world needs an "i" in front of it. Apple, however, disagrees.
Yesterday at its World-Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco Apple once again tagged everything it could with an "i". First, there was the new iPhone 4. Then there was its new operating system, iOS.
And guess what? This time around Apple wasn't iSued.
You see, three years ago when Apple first introduced the iPhone it didn't get permission to use the term "iPhone," which was a trademark owned by Cisco. The companies eventually settled out of court with the terms undisclosed.
This time around, Apple got the OK up front from Cisco to use the term "iOS," which Cisco has been using for more than a decade for its Internetwork Operating System.
For my money, I'd like to see Apple drop the entire boring iBrand and go back to creative names such as Macintosh and Newton.

iPhones, SmartPhones and the Coming Cloud Addiction

I'm not your typical early adopter, but I pre-ordered Apple's iPad and have used it endlessly since the day it landed on the doorstep of my Virginia farmhouse. Wherever I take it, I end up doing a sales pitch for the darned thing.  From waiters at the only good restaurant in town to kids and adults at the hockey rink, everyone wants to know about Apple's magical device. The question I answer most often is "What do you use it for?" My answer is about 100 different things, but not just one thing. There is no killer app.  For all its sizzle and hype, the iPad is a subtle device.  It works its way into your daily routines in a hundred ways until you end up having separation anxiety when your spouse sneaks off with it to read a book.  Weird, but true. Then again, isn't that what great products do?  They subtly work their way into our routines.  We don't know they have crossed the path from useful to vital until we don't have access to them for a period of time.  Then we panic.

A few years ago, I bought a car with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).  It wasn't why I bought the car.  Truth be told, I didn't even know what CVT was. I liked the car.  Five years later, when I went shopping for a replacement, I only considered cars with the smooth shifting CVT.  Marketers can fill Times Square with all the brightly lit messages they can afford, but unless a product delivers consistently every day until we are dependent upon it, the product ranks as fad not trend.

For all the fanfare surrounding the cloud, I suspect this is the way the cloud will enter our work lives -- slowly, steadily and subtly. We won't be aware of its integration into our lives until there is a problem and we can't access something. I think this is already happening on a much wider scale than we realize.

The savvy people over at ZDnet's CloudTweaks raised an interesting illustration of this point in their blog about yesterday's introduction of Apple's other wonder tool, the iPhone. Writing about the introduction of a whole new class of SmartPhones, from Apple, HTC, RIM Nokia, Motorola and others, CloudTweaks pointed out that "these devices are introducing cloud computing offerings to many who might not otherwise care. The folks purchasing these devices don’t really care about all of that, however. They just want a slick looking, highly functional device."  Exactly!

SmartPhone Apps have moved in one year from the novelty of Zippo Lighters to very functional network-based applications and services. And these are not just limited to apps of restaurants, maps and directions. There is an increasingly diverse set of corporate applications in areas like CRM, banking and communications.  The cost benefits and limited risk certainly make these applications appealing to SMBs.  But if employees start injecting cloud usage of their own accord via SmartPhones into the technology gene pool of large corporations, will their subtle reliance on the cloud accelerate the adoption of more mainstream cloud deployments?  How long will it take until the cloud wends is way into mainstream corporate usage?   For all the hype and marketing about the cloud, nothing will measure success in technology better than separation anxiety. In fact,  I think they call it addiction. Excuse me. HONEY, WHERE'S THE iPAD?!!!!!!