Monthly Archives: April 2008

VC vs. Entrepreneur: a need to realign our values

In BarCampMoneyNYC, there is a little debate regarding VC and entrepreneur’s conflicts in controlling the enterprise.

I can understand VC needs to see profit, so they need to find the best management team. So if the current team is not managing successfully, it is understandable to demand a better team. I think it makes sense. I think here we need to have a change in regard to how we align our values. I think what we learned during the recent years, from open source communities or from web2.0 is that capital is more and more serving the professionals, helping to bring out the best in each profession. If VC and entrepreneurs can both align values around that, and try to make money by building the best solution in a profession/domain, that might be a more viable strategy, more healthy in the long term and more scalable. I might sound idealist, but  I think the trend we see now is that it costs less and  less to be an idealist. For a VC, it might be time to consider more doing something that is more meaningful and really solve the problem. and look at each profession try to bring out the core values in that profession.

After all, we are here to play.

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Everything digital will be free?

I went to the BarCampMoneyNYC yesterday, and there was a discussion about Chris Anderson’s statement that everything digital will be free. The discussion is led by Hank Williams, who wrote a post titled “Free is killing us blame vcs” on his blog.

Here I want to just give some of my random thoughts on this. I think when we come to product we consume, there are roughly two types of products. One type meets our material needs. The other meets our spiritual needs (spiritual might not be the right word here, maybe we say for the consumption of the brain. I guess the exact definition is not critical here. We just need to get the idea.) When we come to the product that our brain consume, this kind of product is so important for us that it is vital to keep them accessible to all the people. So when we come to this kind of product, do we have to put the money value into it? But the producers of this kind of product still need to survive. I think one possible solution is to make it easier for them to tie their spiritual product with some other material product, such as t-shirt, or giving a concert and make money from the material product. If so, will this happen? Probably. Human being is more a spiritual being (again spiritual might not be right word) than a material one. For me personally, if I can do what I really like to do, and be able to survive and help out my family and friends, I will be very happy, even it means I cannot make crazy amount of money (didn’t Bill Gates make way too much money?). I may sound like an idealist. But in our age, to be an idealist is less and less costly. 🙂 I think this is what many people will choose to do.

I guess another way to divide product is: product that belong to platform/playground and thus is used by all the people; product that only target a specific group. For product that belong to the platform, I always hope they are inexpensive and more accessible to all the people. Practically, when you are building a platform, because its user base is very large, it is thus easier to tie that user base to something that can make money and thus support the platform. As we have seen, if you don’t make it free or very cheap, another competitor come along and figure out a model to make it free or less expensive, people will start moving to that one.

This topic will be more and more debated in the near future as software and web make it easier and easier for people to produce, reproduce and share “consciousness”. A large range of consciousness product will appear in the near future. Whether we should put money value into them and how will be a vital question we have to find out.

This post is just a random thought. I need to read more to write more clearly about it.

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No Chinese food anymore–continuous exploration of space

I decided not to go eat Chinese food anymore except when I am going with some friends and they want to go to eat Chinese food. For myself, I am going to stay away from Chinese food. Initially I was frightened by this decision. So from now on I have to eat American food (or non-Chinese food) for a long time. What if I don’t like it? Well, I told myself, go find American/western food you like! Immediately it opens up a big space for me. I start paying attention to many things that I didn’t pay attention to in the past and start making sense of them. Things start to be connected.

When I first came to US, faced with this new space, I was so excited about exploring it. There are tons of questions that I want to find out. However, graduate engineering school can be very intensive, and thus I couldn’t allocate much time for me to explore the space. So I had to just get by. Gradually I got used to not being able to understand what people were saying and felt ok of it. I got used to not being able to communicating with people and felt ok of it, got used to not knowing what was going on around me… You know, I stopped asking those questions, and gradually forgot those questions. The space closed up. I got used to just getting by. I guess it is like the frog in the slow cooking pot of water, I am in the slow process of dying. Only occasionally, for example, when the school dining hall I used to work at caught fire, I didn’t know what to do, even though I had studied a lot of chemistry (but staying in US, I barely recognize any conversation related to chemistry. And just like math, chemistry don’t register with my daily attention since my top concern is to find time to learn more frequently used English words.) I was the only guy there, and they expected me to give them some answer. You know how bad to feel so helpless. Anyway, generally speaking, the space is closed up, although I never stopped fighting back. As time goes by, I get used to just getting by and forget the urgency of changing the situation.

So, you see, life is about continuous exploration of space. It is a very exciting thing and it is the energy that sustains us. Life is full of life that way. Look at many adults, why most of them have become so passive? Because they lost the continuous exploration of space! Look at the kids. They are always very excited, playing around. The world is brand new for them and there are so many things to explore. When did the change happen to them?

When kids become teenagers, mostly they have finished exploration of nature. For about 10 years, they have been awed by the wonder of nature, and to some degree, start getting used to it. Many kids, at this time, start to getting interested in adult’s world. When they are kids, they don’t like adults’ life, which is incomprehensible. So cartoon is much better for them. Cartoon is much simpler. 🙂 But during teenage time, they are about ready to take on human world. They start getting interested in knowing about how the human world works, what is like to be a musician, and so on. They also know intuitively (partially society also demand them) that they need to take on responsibility in this human world soon. So at this time, a lot of time is needed to do a lot of reading (history, society, literature, many many things will interest them), or try many things in society (selling stuff on the street and so on) to figure out how the world works.

But we know, this is the time kids go to middle schools and become occupied by school work and home work (and TV).  It is very hard to find time to  explore their own interests. They are told by the school teachers to learn various things which are supposed to the basic learning material no matter they are interested or not. What happen then? As time lapse, even faced with the new space opening up for them, they stopped asking questions anymore, satisfied of just getting by and being passive.  So you see most students go through many years of schooling without all those important questions of life, society and their positions in this society ever asked.

Before they become adults and have to be financially responsible for themselves, that is the time they really have all the free time to freely explore all sorts of things. After they become adults, they don’t have that luxury of free time anymore. Worse, they already got used to being passive.

So life is about continuous exploration of space. That is playing. That is adventure. Life needs adventure.

So we see two stages that exploration of space are blocked.

One is in middle school and college. The result is people get dumbed down by schooling.

The other is coming to US (as an engineering graduate student). The result, as one of my friends said, is to create the high tech slaves for US economy. (BTW, I am not complaining. I made my decision and if I don’t like it, I can choose other options.)

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