USC commencement 1915

May 24, 2015: It’s commencement season for those graduating into the ever more sharing economy, and a few thoughts on that are timely. I must have read a dozen articles on that subject this week, the most striking being a prediction that the auto industry would be displaced by a smartphone-dependent transport system. We’d keep most vehicles in use most of the time and reduce the fleet requirement by an order of magnitude. In one such article the analogy was made to IBM’s transition from its PC glory days to what is now primarily a services business.


May 17, 2015: Tech entrepreneurs employing knowledge workers today have the luxury of thinking of office space as a service that can be dialed up or down to match the stage of the venture. Evolutions in the way we work along with new business models in commercial real estate like co-working spaces have relieved startups from the traditional risky bets on 5-year leases for fixed numbers of square feet and parking spaces.

An ideas poster from WWII

May 10, 2015: As mentioned last week, Bob Metcalfe and I are focusing our energies on the Innovation Center at UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering and no longer have responsibilities as instructors in the Longhorn Startup program. Now comes the task of identifying the next wellsprings of great ideas that deserve our attention and nurturing.

Longhorn Startup students at Demo Day

May 3, 2015: Longhorn Startup Demo Day this past Thursday at the Lady Bird Auditorium in the LBJ Library enjoyed a nearly overflowing turnout in our 967-seat venue. The crowd got to see Bob Metcalfe interview Michael Dell, followed by pitches by our 13 student teams, who all performed well and lived up to our high expectations. As always, our classes raise the bar a bit higher than their predecessors with each new edition of this event.

1st Duke of Wellington

April 26, 2015:  One of today’s most popular terms in public institutions and large companies is “innovation.” I am part of the Innovation Center at the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin, where Bob Metcalfe is Professor of Innovation. The City of Austin has a Chief Innovation Officer. Many companies have located innovation centers in or near research universities, e.g Coca-Cola Enterprises, Home Depot, and the numerous other household names clustered at the ATDC at Georgia Tech.

Peachtree Software products in basket

April 19, 2015: One phenomenon we’re seeing with our Longhorn Startup student teams is that the more they rise to prominence, the sooner they have to change their company names. The term “cease and desist letter” is now part of our curriculum. Our fine group creating a virtual typing experience for mobile devices called AirType ran afoul of that trademark held by a North Carolina advertising firm.  They got their C&D letter and changed their name to Noki (as in “no key”). I’m waiting now for Nokia to send them their next letter.

Effort vs results chart

April 12, 2015: First, allow me to thank all of you who Tweeted, posted on Facebook, emailed me, called me, talked to me in person, or otherwise commented on or shared my Memoriam to John Imlay last week. Those all added to our collective memory of this beloved person. I do not look forward to writing more such essays, but I suppose they are inevitable as some of us age. For this week I’m back to the normal advice and observations on startups.

John Imlay from 1981 MSA Annual Report

Easter Sunday, 2015: TechDrawl today is dedicated to the life of John P. Imlay Jr. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 78 on March 25. I attended his memorial service with more than 1000 others in Atlanta Wednesday April 1 at Georgia Tech’s basketball arena, the McCamish Pavilion.

USMC fast-pitch softball tournament 2009

March 29, 2015: Last Thursday night was Demo Day pitch practice for eleven of our companies in the Longhorn Startup Lab, and all of us who attended SXSW have been through a blizzard of pitches in recent days. How best can teams be competitive in those environments? It’s not the same as raising money or applying to an incubator. In those cases you’ll get a closer look, have more time to position yourself, and can fully explain your visionary idea in all its glory.

Fairfield Four at SXSW

March 22, 2015:  The topic today is the user experience at SXSW 2015 – not what you’re likely to anticipate from the title above. That experience on the whole was one not to be missed, but there were areas that fell short, left people wanting something better, and are ripe for technology-based innovation for the 2016 edition.


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