Twitter’s Challenge of Capitalizing on 160 Million Users

October 19, 2010

As is proven over and over again in the arena of early stage companies, just because such a company has developed a nifty piece of technology does not mean that the world will actually beat a path to its doorstep — at least not with money in tow.  It takes lots of hard work, skillful execution on a good business plan, and a fair amount of trial and error (and some luck) to bring that reality to bear.  So, it’s interesting to see the recent attention being devoted to the diligent efforts of the microblogging phenom Twitter as it finally seeks to define a viable revenue model for itself, much of which hinges, not unsurprisingly, on various forms of advertising. 

There are many lessons here about which any growth stage company can take heart.  In particular, I found the following observations, from a piece in last week’s NY Times, to be especially candid and revealing about the challenges faced by Twitter in its quest for an as-yet elusive revenue strategy:

“But many advertisers and executives say there are questions to be answered and experiments to be done before Twitter becomes a must-buy, if it ever does.

“Agencies are uneducated, brands are uneducated and, to a certain extent, Twitter is uneducated,” said Ian Schafer, chief of Deep Focus, an interactive marketing agency.  “There are no best practices.  There are just hunches about what will work.””

(NY Times, 10/11/10, p. B1)


Quebec’s Distinguished Office in Atlanta

October 17, 2010

While I’ve long been aware of Quebec’s many cultural treasures and business opportunities, it’s only recently that I’ve become better acquainted with the sophisticated approach taken by the province of Quebec in cultivating economic development and other ties with the United States.  The province has long maintained six regional offices in the U.S.  — in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. — each of which (other than the D.C. office) is responsible for coordinating relations with a large group of surrounding states. 

The leadership of the Quebec Office in Atlanta includes: Ginette Chenard, Delegate of the Quebec Government, who is also the Head of Mission; Andrée Tremblay, Govermental and Public Affairs Attaché; Louise Fortin, Head of Economic Affairs Services; and Liliane Laverdière, Business Development Manager for Investissiment Quebec, which combines the strengths of both a financial institution and an economic development agency.  

Over the past year, I’ve encountered the staff of this Office on several occasions.  In one of these meetings, I  attended a  masterful presentation on investing in Quebec, which the Quebec Office organized in conjunction with the always superb Canadian Consulate in Atlanta, that opened my eyes to aspects of the province about which I was unaware.    More recently, I visited with some of the Office’s representatives at a multi-national trade showcase held at a nearby convention center.  In each of these and other instances I’ve been impressed with how engaging and talented the staff is in presenting a positive impression for the province. 

If each of the other five Quebec offices in the U.S. do anywhere near as professional a job as does the Atlanta Office then many useful benefits should continue to accrue between Quebec and the U.S.   Mai beaucoup de bonnes choses continuent de se développer entre nous!

Link to Quebec Office in Atlanta:  http://www.gouv.qc.ca/portail/quebec/international/usa/accueil/atlanta/


Management Lessons c/o Steve Jobs and Paul Maritz

October 4, 2010

This Sunday’s NY Times had a couple of columns in its Business section that caught my attention on management issues.  One of the Sunday paper’s regular features is the “Corner Office” in which business executives reflect on leadership issues.  In this past weekend’s column, Adam Bryant interviewed Paul Maritz of VMware.  Among Maritz’s observations are the following on how to get the best out of others:

It’s very hard to talk about these things without becoming trite or corny, but the best leaders are those who get the best out of other people.I’ve learned that you only really get the best out of other people when you do things in a positive way. There are negative styles of leadership, where you do things by critiquing and criticizing and terrifying other people. But in the final analysis, it doesn’t get the best out of people and it doesn’t breed loyalty. Because no matter how much we think we’ve got things figured out, we haven’t got things figured out. Inevitably, we’re going to go down blind alleys. We’re going to run into problems. We’re going to make mistakes. And when that happens, you have to ask people to help you and to overlook the fact that you’ve messed something up.

Great leaders, in my view, are those who have built up that reservoir of loyalty, so that when the time comes to say to folks, “We have to change direction,” people are willing to make an extraordinary effort. If you’re the kind of leader who cuts people down and humiliates them, you leave scars on people that can eventually come back to haunt you.

Good stuff. 

Across the aisle, so to speak, was an article by Randall Stross about the lessons learned by Steve Jobs during his time in the “wilderness”, the dozen or so years after 1985 when he was forced from operational involvement in Apple.  He took advantage of that time to learn some hard lessons at NeXT computer, which, while it ultimately failed, is credited with providing Jobs with the grounded perspective he needed to successfully return to Apple and lead it to yet greater things.  The idea of a person needing to go off into the wilderness to learn important life lessons is one that is seen across numerous cultures outside the business context.  Another reason why business’ most valuable training ground is often found at the altar of business “failure”.


Media Law in the Digital Age Conference Presented by Center for Sustainable Journalism and Berkman Center

October 1, 2010

I had the good fortune this past weekend to attend, and participate as a panelist at,  the Media Law in the Digital Age conference at Kennesaw State University.  The conference was jointly organized by KSU’s Center for Sustainable Journalism and Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  The full-day event was truly impressive in the range of material covered around media law and the evolving models for journalism and media in light of digital technologies. 

Among the topics addressed were “Libel and Privacy: Minimizing the Risks of Publishing Online, “Copyright: Using the Works of Others and Licensing Your Own Work,” “Safe Harbors: Managing Online Communities” and “Starting an Independent News Organization.”   A full program agenda and other details may be found here: http://csjconferences.org/medialaw/.    The diverse mix of attendees — about a third each being from the media, academia and the legal profession, with a few business and governmental  organizations also represented — provided energizing  and lively discussions at each of the sessions.  Hats off to the high caliber of the program and the outstanding effort undertaken by the Center for Sustainable Journalism and the Berkman Center to put this together.