Thursday, July 30, 2015

Facebook gets a patent for tracking user daily routines

This week the US PTO awarded Facebook US 9,094,795, titled "Routine estimation". The patent covers a technology for clustering user locations, e.g. using mobile device data, and deriving daily routine patterns related to the locations.

The technology also enables Facebook and third parties to connect location and social graph data with user activities, "likes", music played, and other personal or group information.

One can easily imagine a real-time map that shows swarms of users chugging along their daily routines and, once in a while, reminding them to do something different. Shop, for example...

In system model terms, Facebook solves a Detection problem, which is typically a precursor to solutions for Control problems, e.g. directing user activities based on detected patterns.

tags: facebook, patent, invention, distribution, control, detection

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Trade-off of the Day: Smartness vs Ease of Use

Steve Jobs shows how Apple broke the trade-off with the iPhone.

tags: trade-off, dilemma, interface, mobile, software, apple

Friday, July 24, 2015

Lunch Talk: Ron Johnson at Stanford GSB

Everyone thinks they innovate, but most of the time it's just improvement, shared former Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Operations Ron Johnson at his View From the Top talk at Stanford GSB. "To win in business, you have to let the imagination run." During his conversation with Stanford GSB student Amanda Facelle (MBA '14), Johnson also shared the biggest life lesson he learned from Steve Jobs: "You have to be willing to start again."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How marketing affects the brain

I'm taking Dr. Hunt's History of Wine course at Stanford University CSP - a great learning experience. Wine fascinates me not only because (in moderate amounts) it stimulates creative thinking. From an inventor perspective, wine is interesting because it defies the common wisdom "Necessity is the mother of invention." We, humans, invented and perfected an incredible variety of wines and spirits just to make our lives more enjoyable. Arguably, the invention of wine turned enjoyment into a necessity in the modern society. Since enjoyment is a highly subjective matter, wine can serve as our entry point into the world of studying how attitudes affect human perceptions and thinking.

In 2007, a group of scientists from CalTech used wine tasting to study the impact of marketing on people's brains.

It's been widely reported that when subjects know the price of wine they consistently give high ratings to expensive wines. It's also known that in blind trials subjects don't find much difference between expensive and cheap wines. The important questions are, "How does the price information skew our brainwork? Does expensive wine taste better because we anticipate a better tasting experience from an implicit marketing message that a higher price means a higher product quality?" Here's an excerpt from the published paper:
Because perceptions of quality are known to be positively correlated with price (9), the individual is likely to believe that a more expensive wine will probably taste better. Our hypothesis goes beyond this by stipulating that higher taste expectations would lead to higher activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), an area of the brain that is widely thought to encode for actual experienced pleasantness (6, 10–16). The results described below are consistent with this hypothesis. We found that the reported price of wines markedly affected reported EP and, more importantly, also modulated the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal in mOFC.

In short, a $90 price tag activated the brain's pleasure center more than a $10 one - an almost 10X impact! Since in both cases researchers used the same wine, areas of the brain responsible for the more basic perceptions, including smell and taste, did not make any difference. The findings of the study was consistent with the placebo effect. External marketing information dominates internal perceptions.

As an exercise in creative thinking, we can try to use these results beyond the realm of wine tasting. For example, how does a perceived value of a startup or its founders affect the valuation in the early stages of financing when no objective data can be found yet? Are hype cycles are endemic in the high-tech industry because there's an inevitable time gap between the real and imaginary results of proposed innovations? Is the Mathew Effect hardwired into human brains?

tags: effect, brain, entrepreneurship, biology, research, science, perception, hype

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lunch Talk: Daniel Kahneman on The Machinery of the Mind

Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, on The Machinery of the Mind. Kahneman is Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University and the winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.

tags: psychology, creativity, system, lunchtalk, science

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lunch Talk: Sequoia Capital's Doug Leone on Luck & Taking Risks

Sequoia Capital Managing Partner Doug Leone addresses risk taking in his Stanford GSB View From The Top talk on November 4. He also discussed the venture capital industry, what his team looks for in entrepreneurs, and more.

tags: entrepreneurship, vc, risk, management, investment

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Invention of the Day: Brain Cleanup

New Scientist reports that NeuroPhage Pharmaceuticals (Cambridge, MA) has found a way to cleanup rogue proteins that form in the brain, causing debilitating mental disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases:

The drug is the first that seems to target and destroy the multiple types of plaque implicated in human brain disease. Plaques are clumps of misfolded proteins that gradually accumulate into sticky, brain-clogging gunk that kills neurons and robs people of their memories and other mental faculties. Different kinds of misfolded proteins are implicated in different brain diseases, and some can be seen within the same condition.

The hope is that the novel drug will destroy the plaques but leave healthy brain cells alive.

NeuroPhage's US patent applications can be found here.

tags: medicine, brain, control, tool, entrepreneurship, biology

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lunch Talk: Robert Shiller on Innovation in Financial Markets

Recognized as one of the most far-seeing political economists of our time, Robert Shiller is known the world over for his brilliant forecasts of financial bubbles and his penetrating insight into market dynamics and how human psychology drives the economy. For his empirical analysis of asset prices, Robert was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics.

tags: innovation, finance, lunchtalk, networking, money

Friday, July 17, 2015

LunchTalk: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

At the 37th annual ENCORE Award event on September 23, 2014, Stanford Graduate School of Business honored Netflix, and Netflix Founder and CEO Reed Hastings, MS '88. Reed Hastings speaks on the history of the company, the challenges they faced, and how Netflix became the innovative leader it is today.

tags: internet, media, video, streamternet, source, content

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Smartphone: the greatest personal device ever?

According to Gallup, more and more people can't imagine their life without their smartphone:

The device has become our ultimate interface into the world of social interactions and productivity. It's hard to find in the history of technology a device that is more personal than that. Adding more devices to one's personal network is likely to increase our dependance on the smartphone.

tags: invention, innovation, mobile, interface, social, biology, networking, psychology

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lunch Talk: an interview with Eric Ries of Lean Startup

The interview is a part of the This Week In Startup series (episode 199).

Jason interviewed Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup. Eric gave advice for all levels and phases of startups, from idea inception and shortening incubation times to managing the inevitable pivots. Later in the episode, Jason and Eric team up to deliver an 'Old Time Revival,' where audience members bring their business woes to the stage to have them healed by these two experts.

startup, entrepreneurship, lunchtalk

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lunch Talk: How to Tell Stories with Data

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and editor of the New York Times’ data journalism website The Upshot, David Leonhardt, shares the tricks of the master storyteller’s trade. In conversation with Google News Lab data editor Simon Rogers, he shows how data is changing the world; and your part in the revolution.

tags: media, lunchtalk, information, trend, data, story,

Friday, July 10, 2015

Principles of Invention and Innovation (BUS 74), Session 2, Quiz 2.

During Session 2, several teams came up with a typical real estate trade-off: the nicer the neighborhood, the pricier it is going to be to buy or rent there.

Assignment 1. Using divergent thinking, list as many constraints behind the trade-off as you can (no criticism; both pragmatic and wild ideas are welcome). Optional: to help expand the scope of your search, apply either the Three Magicians or the STM operator (Scalable Innovation, Part II, Chapters 6, 9-10).

Assignment 2. In his book "Triumph of the City", Edward Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard University, writes,
One of the bedrock principles of economics is that free lunches are rare and markets require trade-offs. [...] suburbanites can get a bigger lot at the cost of a longer commute. In comparing metropolitan areas, there is a three-way trade-off among wages, prices, and quality of life.
Question: Can you come up with an example of an existing or future solution that breaks at least one of these trade-offs?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Wires are dead?

Gizmodo reviews the new line of IKEA's wireless chargers:
IKEA’s wireless charging technology is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a feature being built into a small number of furniture items—namely, lamps and nightstands—but also sold independently as charging pads that you can set on top of a surface or install in any piece of furniture. Once the charging pad is plugged in, you just set your phone on top of a rubber “+” sign. And it charges!

100 years from now you will have your electronic brain implants recharged with a wireless electric pillow while you are sleeping! :)

Speaking of the brain, a group of computer scientists from UCSD and Politechnico di Torino published a paper that describes an implementation of a memory cell-based computing architecture. From the abstract:
Memcomputing is a novel non-Turing paradigm of computation that uses interacting memory cells (memprocessors for short) to store and process information on the same physical platform. It was recently proven mathematically that memcomputing machines have the same computational power of nondeterministic Turing machines. Therefore, they can solve NP-complete problems in polynomial time and, using the appropriate architecture, with resources that only grow polynomially with the input size. The reason for this computational power stems from properties inspired by the brain and shared by any universal memcomputing machine, in particular intrinsic parallelism and information overhead, namely, the capability of compressing information in the collective state of the memprocessor network. We show an experimental demonstration of an actual memcomputing architecture that solves the NP-complete version of the subset sum problem in only one step and is composed of a number of memprocessors that scales linearly with the size of the problem. We have fabricated this architecture using standard microelectronic technology so that it can be easily realized in any laboratory setting.

It's too early to call, but an alternative to the Universal Turing Machine can lead to the creation of novel brain-like applications.

Lunchtalk: Wearable Health Records

Daniel Kivatinos, cofounder and COO of drchrono talks about Wearable Medical Records at the Wearable Tech Conference

Friday, July 03, 2015

Facebook patents video messaging (again!) US 9,071,725

Facebook continues to mine successfully the AOL patent portfolio the company acquired from Microsoft. On June 30, 2015 the United States Patent Office issued US 9,071,725 titled "Methods and user interfaces for video messaging."

The patent dates back to U.S. provisional application No. 60/220,648, filed Jul. 25, 2000. (15 years in prosecution!). The application has already resulted in two good patents – US 8,087,678 and US 7,984,098. The new Facebook claims cover a concurrent video and text interactions between two computing devices, including mobiles (See claim 7).

This is a broad, strong patent that possibly reads on many existing video systems, including Skype, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, etc.

tags: patent, facebook, mobile, video, social, networking

Principles of Invention and Innovation (BUS 74), Session 2, Quiz 1

A 2008 Harvard Business Review article by Noam Wasserman describes a difficult choice that a start-up founder faces when his company begins to grow rapidly:

As start-ups grow, entrepreneurs face a dilemma — one that many aren’t aware of, initially. On the one hand, they have to raise resources in order to capitalize on the opportunities before them. If they choose the right investors, their financial gains will soar. My research shows that a founder who gives up more equity to attract cofounders, non-founding hires, and investors builds a more valuable company than one who parts with less equity. The founder ends up with a more valuable slice, too. On the other hand, in order to attract investors and executives, entrepreneurs have to give up control over most decision making.

This fundamental tension yields “rich” versus “king” trade-offs. The “rich” options enable the company to become more valuable but sideline the founder by taking away the CEO position and control over major decisions. The “king” choices allow the founder to retain control of decision making by staying CEO and maintaining control over the board—but often only by building a less valuable company.

Since the publication of the artcile, a number of successful technology companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Uber, managed to break, rather than make the trade-off. That is, the founders have retained a large degree of control while building highly valuable companies.

Question 1: What's common between these companies with regard to the relationship between control and funding? Describe the existing or propose a new breakthrough solution to the founder's trade-off.

Question 2: Provide at least one example where the investors' decision to fire the founder(s)
a) destroyed value of the company;
b) greatly increased value of the company.

tags: innovation, entrepreneurship, vc, trade-off, dilemma, bus74

Thursday, July 02, 2015

LunchTalk: "Tesla" | Talks at Google

Bernard Carlson is the Joseph L. Vaughan Professor of Humanities and Chair of the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia, where he also holds a joint appointment with the History Department. As an historian of technology, Dr. Carlson has written widely on invention and entrepreneurship as well as on the role of technology in the rise and fall of civilizations. His publications include "Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900" and "Technology in World History", 7 volumes. In 2008, the latter was awarded the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology as the best book aimed at a broad audience.


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Social Media vs TV: kill or be killed

Advertisement dominates business models deployed by social media companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yelp, and a host of others. Although we think of them as technology growth companies, historically advertising revenues have been flat relative to the GDP *.

Web-based ads — most famously Google AdWords — grew rapidly not because they somehow generated new economic growth in the country, but because they helped TV kill newspapers, being the early hero.

Now that newspapers are effectively dead, the only way for the ad-supported internet business to grow is to kill TV-based ads. While the TV industry fights it off with YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, we should expect more video ads on our mobile screens. In the meantime, the likes of HBO and Netflix have to put a strong bet on content quality. Such a bet would be independent of the distribution media and would have a good chance for translating video streams and downloads into real growth.

* also see 
tags: internet, video, data, packaged payload, distribution, content, media,