Saturday, September 15, 2007

GeekCon 2007

It took me a week to regain sleeping hours and consume the entire experience of GeekCon 2007, held last weekend at the Wingate institute. GeekCon, held for the third time already, is yet another geeks convention.

Invited geeks are kept closed in a room for 2 days, with hope that something good comes out of it. This time it was sponsored by Giza VC and Carmel Ventures, as well as Oracle, Newpan and the (spiritual) support of Yossi Vardi.
I arrived with no project in mind. I thought of doing "The Da-Vinci Keyboard" project, but I then thought it was too pretentious for the scope of GeekCon. So as I arrived I met Shachar Tal, who suggested I joined their group to develop a "virtual air hockey".
We worked for about 30 hours with lots of breaks for food, beer, hanging out outside - but no sleep. We decided to develop "quick & dirty", but since we were tired and couldn't code quickly, we just had to code dirtier. Eventually, at 5am we tried our first integration. It worked seamlessly. When people were waking up to continue their projects, we were finalizing ours.
Below is the outcome:

The only online photo with me in it (sitting in front near Yuval Sapir)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Entrepreneurship Has Its Curse

I decided to join the Zell Entrepreneurship Program (named after the contributor Sam Zell) in the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya next year. Some told me it's a waste of time, that the program has got nothing new to offer me, and that I'm giving up job opportunities people would kill for. Well, that's what they've told me when I went studying computer science after 20 years of breathing computers, giving up on a promising carreer. Have I gone mad?

So why have I decided to take the program? First, as much as I've learned about computers, and as much as I've experienced entrepreneurship, it's still too little and there's always much to learn still.
After long considerations and deep reasoning I eventually took the decision in the last minute. When Liat Aaronson asked me what I felt about joining the program, just an hour before deciding who's in and who's out, it was nothing but my gut that said "I want in". This was exactly as it happened when I decided to go studying computer science. My profile says that "I make the most crucial decisions with the blink of an eye", and this was just another perfect example. It's that ticklish feeling in the tips of my fingers of doing something new and exciting. It's a curse. Everybody keeps trying to define what an entrepreneur is. For me - an entrepreneur is one with that curse, one who always finds and can't give up on entrepreneurial opportunities.
So what am I planning for the Zell program? Several thing:

  1. Channelling and tunnelling all that I've consumed in the past couple of years, into a more academic and systematic base.
  2. Team work practice, as I'm facing working and collaborating with 2 people I already love - a greenpeace kind of guy who has ever barely touched a computer, and an enthusiastic 23 year old girl who speaks faster than I type. These two guys will have no choice but to help me on improving my human interaction skills.
  3. Network some more. Networking is like hard disk capacity: you can never have too much of it.
  4. Create - bring an idea to life. This is my favorite art so far.

I haven't got any good vacation or rest ever since I returned from the far east in 2004. Next year is not going to be any different.

Wish me luck,


PS. - I've started a new "Entrepreneurship Has Its Curse" dedicated blog here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

In Memory Of Bily

My dog died yesterday. I'm heart broken. Devastated. I can't even start describing what I feel. Bily was like a daughter to me. A part of me. And she wasn't even 5 when she died of heart failure.
If you're saying "it's just a dog", then you should first get a dog, one with human eyes and stare, with a golden heart, who's always happy to see you, who follows you anywhere you go, even inside your home. One with the single ambition in life: to live with you, nothing more. One that evil has never touched, nor violence, angriness, greediness, or any of the wrongs people are touched with. Someone who is always happy, playful and smiling, even when she's asleep, probably dreaming of you, who will always listen to you, and understand you. Get yourself such a dog when she's only 2 months old, raise her as if she's a part of you, and then, when she collapses, fights to live, gazing at you with a naive look in her eyes, then dies in your arms, only then try and tell me "it's just a dog".
Unconditional love is such a rare thing. Loyalty. As if she was trying to make up for the fact that she's not of my blood and flesh.
Bily, you're a part of me. You always will be. That hole in my heart will never be filled.
I love you.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Beyond Is Where I Learn

I had a bike accident. Finally. After 3 years without a crash, a teenager crashed into me with his parents car, without even slowing down when he entered the traffic circle, in which I was already driving. Will I now throw my bike away? No chance. He's the evil one.

I'm alright, don't worry. After they peeled me off his car, all I'm suffering is pain in the ribs and immobility due to a wrecked bike. I wasn't lucky - lucky is never engaging in an accident. I was lucky for 3 years, though. So why shouldn't I drop my bike now, and move to the "safer" car?

"The evil that men do lives on and on" says Iron Maiden's song with the same title. In my humble opinion, concentrating on your cell phone while entering a traffic circle is evil. Not signalling when switching lanes is evil. Ignoring those small "insignificant" traffic rules is evil. Not behaving as if driving on the road is a serial killer is evil!

So he was evil, I was righteous. Should I now change my lifestyle, just due to his evilness? Due to the fact that most drivers are evil? Is it better to yield to evilness and live, than standing up for my righteousness and maybe get hurt? Leaving my bike now is like surrendering to terror. Leaving Israel to avoid suicide bombers. How many of you are willing to surrender for that? Think for yourself how many threats surround you. Will you surrender to all of them? Do you?

I'm a gambler, a risk taker, I love living on the edge and balancing on a ledge. I invest in the stock market, I love extreme sports, I'm an entrepreneur, and I ride a bike. But above all that, I stand for my way of life, and never surrender to society's normas, outside threats and evil drivers.

I love my beloved ones, and thank them for their concern, but giving up my way of life and having it their way, is just too much for me.

Just promise me - always drive your car as if there's a bike on your wing that you can't see. It's usually true.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt. Soon For Free!

Google's punch-bag ritual recurs, lately with Viacom, suing them for a nominal $1 Billion. But there's no escape for the media makers. In the future, content will be free. We will pay only for the experience.

Copyright laws evolved to answer the need of the creators to have ownership over their creation, and the power to decide with whom to share it. Without copyright laws, anyone who had made an effort to create something, would immediately lose any grip of his creation, which will soon demoralize all the creators, and our society would have been non creative at all. Copyright laws are the incentives for creators to keep creating.

But our society has grown. The digital age allows easy and fast digitization and duplication (= plagiarism) of almost any kind of creation, copyrighted or not. This means two things:

  1. It's harder to enforce copyright laws

  2. The society expects free and mass media

All the lawsuits, starting with the huge one against napster in 2000, are an ongoing endeavor of the media makers against high-tech companies that promote digitization and duplication of the media created by or published by the former. Viacom's lawsuit against Google's YouTube in 2007 is the latest one. As the digital age is gaining pace, it gets harder and harder to enforce copyright laws, and so the first point of the two is maximizing.

As for the second point, it's no secret that we all love the easiness of downloading clips from YouTube and MetaCafe, downloading complete music albums and full length movies from P2P networks, or just getting a burnt DVD copy from our friends. Point 2 is maximizing as well.

The unavoidable conclusion, is that content and media are doomed to be given to the public for free. No copyrights, just massive duplications. Is that fair? Will the creators lose their incentives and stop creating? I believe not. We WILL pay, as we already are paying, for the experience or the service (or both).

If you had the option to pay a yearly subscription fee of $49 to watch up to 10 full length theatre movies, in your own living room, would you subscribe? Newsflash: you already are! Aren't you paying a monthly fee to your satellite/cable television service provider? You are. Do they broadcast theatrical movies? They do. You're actually paying for the convenience of choosing which movie to watch, when, and in the comfort of your living room. Not for the film itself.

So what will the future look like?

  • We will pay YouTube for watching premium clips. We're actually doing this already, well, those of us who click ads and end up buying something. They pay for the rest of us.

  • We will pay for our music downloads, probably per minute or per Megabyte, and we'll be able to download complete music albums. Apple is already going in this direction.

  • Photographers will sell their arts through websites, as a service: pay A LOT for the print and delivery, and get full access to all their media.

To sum up, intellectual property is under a huge legal debate these days. But socially speaking, the television model, by which we pay a monthly/annual fee for unlimited content, will make its way to the rest of the digital media. All these lawsuits will go weaker and weaker.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pitstop & Sanity Check At 30

I turned 30 last week. Aside the celebrations, I took this day as a milestone, and an opportunity for sanity checks. How happy am I with the course of life? In one word: happy. In two words: VERY happy.

Some say it's wrong to divide your life to periods of time, like decades. They say it makes the end visible. Others quote the Roman poet Horace: "carpe diem" ("seize the day"). I tend to take the road in the middle; summarize the past, plan the near future, and leave the rest to the unknown.
The most significant thing in summarizing my past, is what I have learned about myself. Today, I can answer some basic questions:
  1. Who am I? What is special about me? What characterizes me the most?
  2. What do I do best?
  3. What do I like doing most?
  4. What are my weaknesses?
  5. What are my top 3 ambitions in life?
As these questions seem trivial, getting to the truth was not easy for me. It was a long process of self investigation throughout the years. The idea was not to list long answers, but to find a single answer to each question. Unique enough to distinguish myself from the others, but general enough to catch all the correct answers. For example, my answer to question 2 (and the same to question 3) was "creating". I'm not sure that most of the people aged 30 (or even older), can answer these questions today with a true answer; not what THEY think is the answer, but the real answer that reflects reality.
Try answering these questions, and see if your answers reflect reality: take everything that you do best. Is your answer to question 2 the common ground for all of them? Think of all the things you do in your spare time. Is that your answer to question 3? In a job interview, when the interviewers asks you to tell about yourself. Will you answer what you answered to questions 1-4? Think of what you do most of your time - is that helping reaching your ambitions of question 5?

Food for thought.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Yearning For the Yesterdays

Old memories bring tears to my eyes, as Michael Moritz shows a slide of the first wooden Apple computer, in Sequoia's "Israeli Internet Cocktail".
The event was not about networking nor about fundraising, at least not for me, at least not this time. Moritz, probably today's most appreciated high-tech investor in the world, brought up a slide of Steve Jobs as a QA engineer at 17, with Steve Wozniack, both inspecting some unknown tech thingy in Jobs' hands. Yes, there were some other slides from the old days, like the first Cisco router, the first Pong arcade machine, the "Archon" game box, and more, but this photo of the two enthusiastic techies was enough to get me all mushy.
Most of you probably bought your first computer in the late 1990's or later, but those of you who were the "geeks" in the 1980's can surely relate (I have no idea what it was like in the 1970's or earlier).
It was back then when you were walking among people, anxious to talk to someone about the new Sierra game (Frogger?), your new 20MB hard drive, or that you got a Boney-M song on a wav file. You wanted to talk to someone about how DOS is such a powerful operating system, that you got a 16 color monitor, your 2,400bps modem, or the new version of Norton Commander.
So many people, and none to share it with. You were a geek. You were speaking Chinese. You are something to keep distance from.
I yearn for those days. For the thrill that gave me the sound of my hard drive when I turned my computer on, the rush I got just by reading news about Keving Mitnick on some dark BBS, or by successfully running an assembly code segment that made the keyboard lights dance.
I yearn for the days when "computer people" were those who, like Jobs and Wozniack at 17, got a rush just from inspecting an unknown tech thingy.
And I bet I'm not the only one.

Have a happy Purim,


Friday, January 26, 2007

iPhone.. Or Do I? The Rise And Fall Of The Telephone

I’m about to buy myself an iPhone the second it’s available. Not because it’s a great new telephone, but just because it’s probably the ultimate (and coolest) gadget ever presented in history of mankind. But did Apple reinvent the phone? Does iPhone represent any revolution in telephony? In short: No. Not in telephony, but rather in humanity. iPhone ends the telephony age, and makes the word “Telephone” obsolete, and “phone” to be nothing but a verb.

In the past year I found myself talking with my colleagues about the evolution of telephony. I claimed that although telephony seems like growing very fast, evolvement was pretty slow on the user experience side, comparing to other electric necessities. In fact, since the invention of voice dialing 7 years ago, there was no real progress, nothing revolutionary.

And then came iPhone. A revolution? I thought so, but couldn’t really find anything revolutionary in it. Not on the user experience side, anyway. When talking about making a phone call, user experience comes down to two questions: where and what - where you have to be to make the call, and what you have to do.

A brief history, with emphasis on the revolutionary user experience:

1. Manual operators (Alexander Graham Bell patent in 1876, actually invented by Antonio Meucci in 1849). Where: near the wall-jacked phone. What: pick up the funny thingy, and say “operator, please contact me with Bily”.
2. Automatic operators (Strowger switch, 1892). What: pick up, dial Bily’s home number on the rotary thingy.
3. Public pay phones. Where: near the phone, available in the streets.
4. Touch Tone dialing (1941 Baltimore, Maryland, 1961 released to public). What: push some buttons instead of using the rotary.
5. Home mobile (1946). Where: anywhere at home or in the garden. No tangling wires.
6. Cellular (Chicago, 1978). Where: anywhere where service is available.
7. Speed dial. What: push a single button to dial.
8. Voice dialing (2000). What: say “Bily”.

Of course there were more events, such as satellite transport, caller ID, and others, but those above are what I tag as the major revolutions.

So is iPhone revolutionary? It seems that it brings no big news to user experience. Sure, the graphics are cool, but in terms of “where” and “what” there’s nothing revolutional, nothing new.

But iPhone is revolutional in other means. The way Apple integrated all the components, the intuitive functionality, the flow of screens.. it all just made the word “Telephone” obsolete. It ends the telephony age. The only remainder will be that silly number, with too many digits to remember, and that too will expire soon.
Steve Jobs called it “iPhone”. The irony here is that the iPhone actually diminishes the phrase “I phone”. What Bell started in 1876, Jobs ends in 2007.

Welcome to the post-telephony age.


To see the iPhone presentation by Apple's CEO Steve Jobs, click here, and then click "Watch iPhone Introduction" at the bottom.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bread, DVD Player, and Some Bubble Please

What do bread and a DVD player have in common? Apparently nothing. Then how come I went shopping for bread and ended up buying a DVD player? A short story with deep economical insights.
Today I attended a VC conference of Genesis Partners, presenting a panel of Internet and software industry leaders, including the CTO’s of American Greetings and, Dr. Nahum Sharfman (“the Clint Eastwood of high-tech” – B.K), and others. The discussions were round and round web2.0 and social marketing, and how enterprise software companies assimilate with the current trends. It was a very interesting and insightful day, and the different voices shed some light on how enterprise and Internet relate. Then a question was raised (ok, it was me): “why are classic e-commerce business models of high value shoppers, such as jewelry and grocery, are abandoned in favor of blogs, social networks, and other business models based on advertising traffic and non-paying users? How can e-commerce evolve from here?”.
It seemed like a dark cloud fell on the panel floor, as I suddenly took them all back to the middle ages, where Internet websites made money by selling goods, and not by showing free videos of dancing animals or allowing teenagers to send each others animated silly faces, while struggling to be placed as high as possible in the traffic exchange food chain.
On my way home I stopped by at the mall to buy bread. Just bread. So I also picked some rolls, and an Iraqi Pita bread, and a new frying pan (who can resist that!). Then I recalled I needed rosin core solder, and if I’m already around the electronics department, why not get this T2-T3 splitter combo. On my way to the cashier I suddenly saw that DVD player promotion. Oh why not? It’s super slim, so I can carry it on my bike easily. I was supposed to spend about 5 NIS ($1), and ended up paying 350 NIS ($70). That’s about 7,000% more.
Am I a big spender? It depends on whom you ask, but I’m definitely a victim of the capitalist way (and I love it). You try to run a budget, and the stores try to convince you to spend ten times more on stuff you don’t need. A DVD player is now a commodity, so that makes it easier for them (and harder for me to resist). Is that good? For those who can target the consumers it’s awesome.
So what does my shopping spree have to do with the gnosis that the Internet industry is in its second bubble? Everything!
These days, Internet entrepreneurs who have found revolutionary ways to target online shoppers will find it much harder to raise money, than those who have found another way to share their personal video over their mobile devices. For free, of course.
A bubble? Again, it depends on whom you’re asking. I can only say that a bubble is as such only in retrospect, when it exploded.
My dad used to tell me “find out what people need most and frequent, and will always do. Then sell it in mass quantities for cheap”. I’m sticking to that. It just sounds more reasonable.
What do you think?



Saturday, January 6, 2007

Great Minds Don't Think Alike

Yesterday I attended Eurekamp, a full day gathering of all sorts of people, exchanging thoughts and ideas about anything creative or innovative, in a semi-organized format. They say "great minds think alike", and Eurekamp has just contradicted it.
Every now and then I get a new idea of something fun or helpful, but innovative. I usually play with it in my head, sometimes write it down, and if it's really good - I free some resources to make it done, as I'm currently doing with Cartly. Nevertheless, there is no alternative to talking about it with people. But will that suffice? Think that you talk about your idea with a 100 people, and they all say "sounds great, go for it" - how good is it? It's as good as a 100 people saying "it's bad" is bad. A 100 people's opinion is not worth much if they all think the same.
In Monty Python's "Life of Brian", Brian woke up in the morning, only to discover that a huge crowd is waiting outside his window, waiting for his word of mouth. He tried to convince them not to blindly follow him, and shouted at them "You are all different!", and the crowd shouted back "Yes, we are all different". Then a single voice said "I'm not".
But a versatile crowd's opinion is important not only as feedback to your startup idea, but also to as small idea as it can be, raised in a company, and as feedback to the way you lead your company, your family or friends. Just think that you're the CEO of a company, where all your employees agree with every decision you make. How good is it? It's bad. It's like not having any feedback at all.
If you want to be innovative and creative, gather around you a versatile crowd that won't have one opinion, and that won't blindly agree with you. It's a crowd of individuals.
My page at Eurekamp: