Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Getting Things Done

We've all struggled to achieve our goals and look at those who have done it successfully and think "oh, they're naturals--I'm not like that." I'm starting to think about this differently and although I've been aware that there are strategies out there to help achieve goals rather than think of goals to achieve.

Recently, I've been getting in over my head with a ton of projects, because I keep thinking that if I can do it all, then I would be like one of the amazing people that I admire so much. I didn't used to be like this and I didn't use to value perfectionism in this way before, but I think going to B-school can change that quickly, because it's hard to tell what your classmates will do to get ahead.

So I came across this blog article, the "Top 20 Motivation Hacks" and it talks about goal setting, how to stay disciplined, how to focus.

The funny thing about this is that when I first started college, I thought of myself as something Zen and hippy. I wanted to be relaxed and have no set expectations. I was also vegetarian. Ironically, I felt more disciplined, less stressed and got more things done. The vegetarianism set a precedent for my life, because it kept me disciplined and in other areas of my life, I did not let myself go too crazy with my impulses, and made the practice of staying consistent a focus of my daily life.

The Zenhabits blog really reminded me to keep things in perspective. This is the overall message: Try not to achieve perfectionism, but instead, focus on being in the moment, remember that every goal is a way to create something good and be forgiving towards the Self when things don't go as planned. This is the way to allow room for improvement and growth.

There's apparently a book out there which is famous for these ideas called Getting Things Done by David Allen. I think between motivation blogs and reality TV shows like Project Runway, Top Chef and Next Top Model, I might just have a solid recipe for keeping on track. Weird, I know, but those reality shows remind me that people who don't typically work in offices also have to commit to working hard to stay ahead.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Global Warming Affects Deluxe Foods

Well, get ready because global warming is affecting our food, some say. The delicious high end foods like black truffles that some of us enjoy with reckless abandon are going to disintegrate into our memories if nothing is done to save this earth that nurtures us.

I always feel anxious when I start thinking about global warming and what it could do to us. What if we drown? I think of the image of the polar bear searching for a nice platform of ice to rest upon and how Al Gore says in the Inconvenient Truth that more polar bears are drowning than has ever been recorded in history.

I have a surf board and it makes a fairly good boat, but imagine being on a boat with no food on earth to survive. Eerie. Very contrary, too, to Cormac McCarthy's version of an apocalypse in The Road where the world is ablaze in flames but I dare say it's the same concept.

The famous Donner Family up in Lake Tahoe ate each other while stuck in the snow and in hunger, so who is to say that we won't do the same?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Your Story Matters

Ever see Pursuit of Happyness, the movie starring Will Smith? The movie was based on the life of Chris Gardner, who took an unpaid internship and homeless, he and his two year old son slept in a BART restroom for the duration of the internship. Whenever I think of this story, I think that this man must have been made of something superhuman. "Could I have survived like this?"

Did you know that no matter who you are, whether an individual or a company, you have a compelling story to tell? Last Saturday, I attended my graduate school's yearly networking event, the Fisher Fiesta. Prior to the usual dinner, Carmine Gallo spoke to us about his latest book, Fire Them Up!

Leaders who inspire, he said, don't do it through numbers and technical facts. They paint a picture of their vision for the future. And, Gallo said, leaders like Steve Jobs, Suze Orman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chris Gardner are not the only ones who can motivate and inspire. Everyone has a story to tell.

There was another message that Gallo did not illustrate outright but it became very clear to me during his talk. People have a really strong ability to influence each other. Our words and actions have impact on others and that is a power that we can learn to wield through practice and dedication. Each individual has the unique ability to inspire others and make a difference in the world.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I got apologies for re-posting the post previously written around 4 p.m.

For more information, please check The Splog Reporter. If you clicked on the comments link previously posted to this page, my apologies for any viruses this may have caused you.

Actually it was not exactly "splog" it was more like a virus that spawns on your computer once you click on it. Brings up a webpage of sorts. Not sure what it is for.

The Start Up 101 Series - Zonbu

*I was going to post about revenue models today but I met with one of the co-founders of Zonbu today and could not resist posting this instead.*

Business is often an elusive practice. For some odd reason, some businesses succeed and others fail simply by trial and error. So is the term entrepreneurship, and so I should point out here that for all the academic theory and research surrounding this idea, it is those who have been able to embody the spirit of entrepreneurship who have been truly successful.

As for Grégoire Gentil, when I met him in his office on El Camino Real, it became evident that whatever the traits are for an entrepreneur, he is inexplicably an individual that embodies those traits not only in spirit but in action.

Gentil launched three businesses since 1996. In 2006, Gentil and his colleague Alain Rossman created Zonbu.

So what is Zonbu? The technology has the look and feel of the traditional desktop (for $99) or laptop (for $279) but isn't quite the desktop or laptop that we know. Aimed at casual laptop users, Zonbu provides an open source software where the computer is more of a portal to the data stored on a server somewhere rather than a computer.

In addition to that, most of the company's revenue comes from a subscription based service rather than the device itself--a type of HP printer model where the printer itself is a cheap base price, but you pay more for the print cartridges later.

Gentil, as a technology geek and avid trendwatcher, has been able to create what he calls a "disruptive technology"--the very thing that will keep away corporate giants like Dell and Microsoft from his market niche.

As a disruptive technology, it tends to just elusive enough for the corporate giants not to move into this space, and Gentil attributes this to defining a very clear and specific niche where larger players may not be able to support.

So how has Gentil been so successful at creating 4 start-ups to date? Gentil had no direct answer, except to say, "You have to be stubborn enough to believe in yourself and what you are doing, because others may not believe in what you are doing."

He has also been very good at simply identifying solid trends and opportunities. Zonbu is the intersection between cloud computing, sound hardware design and open source. It's an ambitious idea for sure, as he has also been able to integrate poignant environmental issues into the benefits of the technology.

For those of us who want to start a business, Gentil advises, "You have to start early." The older you are the less opportunity there is to succeed. My perception of this is that perhaps the more responsibilities and pressures there are to succeed. This is centrally against the principle that entrepreneurs must be able to pursue risk without boundaries because entrepreneurs risk failure just as much as success.

However it seems that Gentil's skill at identifying opportunities, "stubborn" nature and technology knowledge have contributed most to Gentil's success thus far.

In addition to that, it also helps if you "hire people who are smarter than you."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Microsoft loses sight of company goals

I read Dean Takahashi's column today about how Apple has been very successful at innovating their products recently and taken away some of Microsoft's market share.

Recently I wrote about Microsoft's offer to purchase Yahoo and I think Takahashi is right. Microsoft has to solidify their core business before they tackle the internet space. Yahoo as well seems to be losing sight of their core business by engaging in the Microsoft deal although more recent news suggests that stockholders are holding Yahoo back from making any deals, not to mention that such a merger would be challenging with two very different cultures.

Microsoft may have been largely successful due to the large market share in PC products versus Apple in early years, but if the price point is right, consumers may just switch to Apple, and especially since it seems to have more intuitive and better software than Microsoft's products.

*Updated: Photo to represent not the iPhone but the core business of computers, laptops and OS software. Courtesy of 65 Bit

Friday, February 15, 2008

Robots to replace animal testing

The BBC News today said that robots could be used to analyze chemicals and toxic effects of drugs on humans in place of animals.

"The long-term goal is to reduce the cost, time and number of animals used in screening everything from pesticides to household chemicals."

Cool idea, but the problem with robots is that they can only analyze facts and do not have the ability to make connections between two separate pieces of data, so that could be a problem currently.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Start Up 101 Series - The Opportunity

Last week, I posted a little bit about what makes an entrepreneur, and that's the drive to succeed, stay focused and know when you see a good opportunity.
There's a joke that I hear often in Silicon Valley that whenever someone says "I have a good idea," the common response is "You should start a company and get some VCs on that."

A lot of times they don't mean it and anyway, it never matters what your friends or family say if you have an entrepreneurial idea. The only exception to that rule is if your friends are in the market that you want to appeal to.

It's important to get it straight: opportunities and ideas are two different entities. An idea is something creative, fun and can certainly spark opportunities, but opportunities mean that you have something with which to create a business.

Here's an example:
At the Girl Geek Dinner hosted at Google, Katherine Barr of Mohr Davidow Ventures made a great suggestion to me. "If you think you have an opportunity, do some research first, test out your idea and ask them if they will buy your product or service."

Let's say I am a former veterinarian with lots of experience and I decide that I want to sell fancy, customized natural dog food diet because I find that it's easy to make at home in manageable batches in my home oven.

Will anyone buy it? If I do my research, I could go to a dog park and chat with the owners because that is where they all hang out and ask them, "I have this great customizable dog food product that is good for your dog, would you buy it?" It's best if I find places where dog fans, breeders, and owners hang out. Maybe at a dog park or a breeder's association gathering.

If I talk to one hundred people and they all say "yes, I would buy it" then I have an opportunity. If they all say no, then I have a great idea but no opportunity. Maybe you have an 80 out of 100, then your chances are still high.

Basic, but hard to put into practice. Next week, we'll talk about risk and revenue models specific to Web 2.0

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Start Up 101 Series - Traits of the Entrepreneur

In the next week or so, I will be writing a series of articles that I will call "The Start Up 101" Series which will be my observations on entrepreneurship from meeting entrepreneurs and what makes a start-up opportunity successful. Not only that--but people can be entrepreneurial while working at corporate companies and there are several Silicon Valley companies prefer this approach than the traditional corporate style.

Some of things that I will cover in the next week based on my observations:
- Characteristics of an entrepreneur
- Identifying opportunities
- Goal setting and creating benchmarks
- Surveying the competitive landscape
- And more as I think of other related topics.

Today is about defining characteristics of entrepreneurs.

First, I'll start by defining my personally coined term "Rookie Stylie." I don't think I had a chance up to now to define what "Rookie Stylie" really means to me. It is finesse, confidence and individuality to make connections and think critically about the business world. Not only that, I will have to say that it is also about being a young professional, maybe in your twenties and having a ton of potential to live up to your passions versus the old skool paradigm of working for the Man.

Entrepreneurship is the art of "taking or entering into opportunities" and many people here have dreams of having their own start-up or company. In Silicon Valley, where everyone is trying to stay competitive, we have to be our own agents or consultants, even if we are working in the corporate world. I don't think you have to be a public figure in your community to be an entrepreneur, per se, but you can be an aspiring entrepreneur if you have passion and motivation to work towards dreams and life goals. The fame comes afterwards (and only if it really is fame that you are seeking. Personally I think being a strong thought leader is a service to the community not a celebrity role.)

Another aspect that is important is to stay focused. I learned recently that it is easy to get distracted because there are a lot of wonderful things in the world that can pull away one's attention, but having an entrepreneurial spirit means you're able to seperate the important stuff from the "crap" much like we have to do with a lot of the information that is available us through the internet today.

Next up: how can you recognize you have a good opportunity to pursue?


  • New Venture Creation by Timmons & Spinelli
  • Women 2.0
  • Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs

  • Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Fashion at Work

    There's always an issue with how women should dress at work and what is too revealing and what's just right. An article on WSJ discusses this. Not much to comment on except, you would think that as "highly evolved" human beings in the internet age, we wouldn't be so stuck on appearance. But people create visual cues on a professional's status level based on appearance. This is probably the most frustrating thing about working as a young professional woman, as I do try to uphold personal finance and spend within my limits. While a man can buy a single suit, women can't often wear the same piece of clothing twice and get away with it.

    If truth be told, carnal traditions of status, hierarchy and power that have existed for centuries still exist today. For a country that values democracy and equality we can still say those are still values because no man or woman can climb the ranks in rags.

    Friday, February 1, 2008


    The world is abuzz today as Microsoft has proposed to buy Yahoo! AND Yahoo! is actually considering the offer. There are often mixed feelings for users of services acquisitions happen like this. Microsoft isn't great when it comes to innovation and has been better at simply buying companies who innovate well.

    I'm surprised because in some ways, I felt like I should have seen this coming. Microsoft started to go after the big players when they made a bid on Facebook and it's starting to be come clearer now that they want a bigger share of the online space, while they have been leaders in desktop software for a long time.

    Economically speaking, mergers are never good for consumers. First of all, Yahoo's problem recently has been in scalability and Microsoft can't solve that problem. There is going to be a lot of organizational change if and when the merger takes place. Second, Microsoft's goals and Yahoo's don't seem well aligned. Microsoft is a stodgy old, uninnovative company and Yahoo needs to figure out some way to act quicker, stay nimble against their number 1 competitor Google.

    Maybe it's because I am a user of Yahoo products, but this just sounds like a bad idea.

    Other articles fielded on this story:

  • TechCrunch-"Wow"
  • The Guardian UK - "What would a Microsoft-Yahoo deal mean for web users?"
  • InformationWeek - "Microsoft Proposes To Buy Yahoo For $31 Share, In $44.6-Billion Deal"