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A place that will always be in our memories. We still call this home even though we lived there for a short eight years 🙂
The raw beauty of Arizona can only be appreciated after experiencing it. So for all those who have never been to Arizona, put it on your bucket list and explore beyond Grand Canyon!

Wish I Were Here

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It is said that Sedona has four vortexes of spiritual energy. They interact with a person’s inner self and can facilitate dramatic transformation. I visited Sedona twice. Both times, I felt a strange kind of vertigo. A squeamish bliss. Like that feeling you get when you have that one drink which pushes you beyond pleasantly buzzed and into the realm of drunkenness. As I drove away, the feeling transformed into intense nausea and a vicious migraine. It took me an entire day in bed to recover.

Arizona is a monumental territory in the cartography of my existence.

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I took shelter for the night in Flagstaff during cross-country trips from California to Michigan and back. The Petrified Forest welcomed two different versions of myself – one broken in spirit, the other reborn. The massive Meteor Crater and wacky Tombstone were to be the last places my brother Billy and I would…

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This is a very familiar story with a lot of startups. While I am not privy to the exact details of the communication between the two companies, I am surprised the company played all its cards without getting to see any of the acquirer’s card. This is a great lesson in “what not to do” in negotiations, particularly with a player who has greater resources than you.
As a side note, I highly recommend all startups read “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist” by Brad Feld and team. It details the entire financing process and is a great read.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about how customer centric companies win eventually in an competitive market. During our conversation we reflected back on our individual experiences and realized that some companies get it all wrong even in an age where customers have a strong voice (through social channels). Surprisingly, there are many companies that still flourish and have a very strong engineering driven product focus (you know who they are).

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So why do these companies exist?

  1. They are a monopoly
  2. Their customers do not have an alternative

But is the model sustainable? The answer is NO. The business landcape is full of examples where a nimble startup has disrupted the incumbent’s business model by being more customer centric and giving what the customers really want. At the core, this simply works because there is an inbuilt closed loop between the customers and product engineering. The channels may wary for understanding the Voice of Customer, but the end result is always positive.

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So why do companies still GET IT ALL WRONG in 2012?

Originally submitted at Roku

Features the highest-quality HD streaming available.

Good companion to my cable box

By Honest Opinion from Fremont, CA on 1/3/2012
 
4out of 5

Pros: Easy to use, Compact, High quality picture, Great value, Built in Wi-Fi, Easy to set up

Cons: Want more video choices, Need more content

Best Uses: Secondary TV, Private channel viewing

Describe Yourself: Netflix fan

The ROKU player is small and compact and is hardly visible with the other big cable boxes and DVD players. I love the iPhone app that eliminates the need to use the remote. The set-up was extremely easy. Adding the wi-fi password was somewhat tedious, but i had not discovered the iPhone app during set-up. The user-interface is very intuitive and nice and adding channels is a breeze. 10/10 for the UI design. HD picture quality is great, particularly with Netflix. Love that Amazon on-demand videos are there as well. Crackle is also a great channel to watch. The best channel for me is Live Excercise. I love the kick boxing shows and have been excercising a lot more after the Roku addition. Overall a great addition to the cable box and DVD player.

The deciding factor for Roku’s success is going to be the content. The hardware is already in excellent form and delivers a great user experience. However, adding another box for Netflix and a few other premium channels is not going to be deal winner for lot of users.

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Do innovative companies spend a lot on innovation? Contrary to widely held belief, the answer is NO.

A simplistic way to measure the impact of R&D spending is to look at the top line growth resulting from the investment in innovation (R&D expense). To arrive at this conclusion, I focused on the high tech sector. The companies that I sampled for highest R&D expense were IBM, Samsung, Canon, Microsoft and Intel (using no of patents as a proxy). The companies sampled for innovation are Apple, Google and Amazon. While somewhat arbitrary, these companies are frequently profiled in list of most innovative companies.  

 

The graph above paints a very clear picture – more dollars invested in R&D does not always result in top line growth. All the companies in the list have a core competency that is a cash cow. However, what differentiates them is the focus of their research. Apple, Google and Amazon are fanatically focused on products/services that matter to the consumers. IBM, Microsoft and Intel have a global research organization that taps the best minds. Yet, their R&D investments have not paid their shareholders a good return on the investments. Is it time for these blue chip companies to reconsider their research investments? I surely think so.

Related Articles:

  1. Top ‘Innovators’ Rank Low in R&D Spending – WSJ
  2. The Great Tech War Of 2012 | Fast Company

Have you ever played Angry Birds? If not, first give it a try before you read this blog. It is a fun game, highly addictive and requires a little bit of strategy.

(C) Rovio

I first noticed our 5yr old playing angry birds when she started tapping the iPad screen multiple times. My first reaction was the kid was frustrated because she did not know much about projectiles and what the game was all about. I was in for a big surprise. Not only had she quickly mastered the launch, she figured out that the different colored birds behave differently – all by simply trying and not giving up.

Here are three simple lessons I learnt watching her that day, which we should all apply in our daily lives:

  1. Adapt and adapt quickly – as we age, we are conditioned by our surroundings and develop a typical response to every situation. Watching our little one, I quickly realized that what we all need to do instead is keep trying so we can discover new ways of solving problems.
  2. Never give up – it did not matter how many times she failed a level, she kept trying until she has hit the jackpot and the fist pumping is priceless. Most of us give up after a few tries and rationalize our decisions. What if we never gave up and combined it with ‘lesson 1’ – I am sure we will all be achievers.
  3. Celebrate small achievements – every time the pigs are knocked down, there is a sense of achievement. Small celebrations are necessary to maintain the momentum and once again combined with lessons ‘1’ and ‘2’ can lead to big wins.

I am determined to try these three simple lessons. Give it a try!

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A flower plant that is hardy and took a whole year to grow just enough to show beautiful flowers. Has survived Arizona heat with little water.

Nature’s Beauty

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Average Weekly Consumption

If this is an average individual in the US, TV is definitely dead. At least the traditional approach to watching TV. Similar to discretionary expenditure, people have a limited time at their disposal. What most social media companies fail to recognize is that at point, they will have to steal customers from their competitors and not everyone can co-exist happily creating a niche.

I recently read a blog by Henry Blodget (link) that highlighted a specific element of the “excellent analysis of the the financial condition of the united states – by Mark Meeker”. The picture below is sourced from Mary Meeker’s analysis.

 

Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins

 

Henry makes a good argument that a significant portion of the expenses are in the form of entitlements. But there is only a very brief  mention about the bigger problem. Take a look at the picture again carefully. What stands out for you?

To me – the expenses are significantly greater than our revenues and that is where we as a nation need to PAUSE and think about why we are doomed in the long run. Any business person will tell you that brief periods of over expenditure is OK, as long as one balances the budget to match revenues to expenses (assuming saving is not a good think – which can be a blog post by itself). Borrowing to spend more year after year is simply unsustainable and I can’t remember the last time the USA had a surplus.

Remedy: Stop bickering about entitlements vs. non-discretionary expenses. First, we need to make our system more efficient. I wish Henry talked about how much of the expenses is wasted due to inefficiency in our system. We need something akin to a “Lean Six Sigma Project” for the USA. Second, we need a reduction in expenses across the board. Unless we as a nation learn to live within our means (and that is no easy task), there is no point arguing about entitlements.

One last comment: 80% of the revenue comes from hard working individuals and social insurance taxes. I would rather spend this money on my welfare rather than wasteful expenses on defense. If we as a nation were to be more humble and not project a COWBOY image, we probably don’t need to be as paranoid about our safety – food for thought!

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