Category Entrepreneurs

The advent of the global brain

Chrystia Freeland:

Get ready for the global brain. That was the grand finale of a presentation on the next generation of the Internet I heard last week from Yuri Milner. G-8 leaders had a preview of Milner’s predictions a few months earlier, when he was among the technology savants invited to brief the world’s most powerful politicians in Deauville, France.



Milner is the technology guru most of us have never heard of. He was an early outside investor in Facebook, sinking $200 million in the company in 2009 for a 1.96 percent stake, a decision that was widely derided as crazy at the time. He was also early to spot the potential of Zynga, the gaming company, and of Groupon, the daily deals site.

His investing savvy propelled Milner this year onto the Forbes Rich List, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion. One reason his is not yet a household name is that he does his tech spotting from Moscow, not a city most of us look to for innovative economic ideas.



Milner was speaking in the Ukranian city of Yalta, at the annual mini-Davos hosted by the Ukrainian pipes baron and art collector Victor Pinchuk (disclosure — I moderated at the event). What was striking about Milner’s remarks was how sharply his tone differed from that of the other participants.

Rite Aid rolls out in-store virtual doctor visits

Lucas Mearian:

One of the nation’s leading drug store chains, Rite Aid, has begun rolling out online physician chat rooms in its stores, allowing customers to participate in virtual face-to-face consultations prior to purchases.

Rite Aid today said it worked with healthcare provider OptumHealth to introduce its NowClinic Online Care services, which are currently available at pharmacies in the Detroit area.

The NowClinic offers Rite Aid customers real-time access to medical information and resources from doctors and OptumHealth nurses. Rite Aid said it is the first to provide a virtual clinic in a retail pharmacy setting.

Currently, conversations with nurses are free and a 10-minute consultation with a doctor is $45.

Ikea Debuts Mänland

Tim Nudd:

Men hate to shop. It’s a truism that Bud Light ads have hammered into us for decades. Ikea has absorbed it, too, and come up with a novel solution in its Australian stores. It’s launched a special in-store area called Mänland, a kind of daycare where husbands and boyfriends can hang out with their own kind (i.e., other Cro-Magnon morons) while their wives and girlfriends shop. Judging by the video below, this makes everyone happy—particularly the guys, who don’t seem to mind the suggestion that they’re essentially imbecilic toddlers who need to be dropped off and picked up like they’re still in preschool. The area is even modeled off the actual Ikea toddler-care area—and women are given a buzzer to remind them to collect their significant other after 30 minutes of shopping. (Instead of arts and crafts, the guys play foosball and Xbox games, watch sports, and eat free hot dogs.) It’s a nice little PR gambit, and it got lots of play in the Australian media—and would surely be a hit in the U.S. too. Because really, the men aren’t needed until the assembly phase anyway.

People are biased against creative ideas, studies find

Mary Catt:

The next time your great idea at work elicits silence or eye rolls, you might just pity those co-workers. Fresh research indicates they don’t even know what a creative idea looks like and that creativity, hailed as a positive change agent, actually makes people squirm.

“How is it that people say they want creativity but in reality often reject it?” said Jack Goncalo, ILR School assistant professor of organizational behavior and co-author of research to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science. The paper reports on two 2010 experiments at the University of Pennsylvania involving more than 200 people.

Money Quotes, Steve Jobs-Style

Owen Linzmayer and Ryan Singe:

One of the things the world will miss most about Steve Jobs, now that he’s officially retired for a second time as Apple’s CEO, is his mouth.

Jobs is a master of hype, hyperbole and the catchy phrase — and his cocky performances, while clad always in jeans and turtleneck, were as entertaining as the products he was shucking.

Here’s a selection of some of the most entertaining things the man has said, organized by topic: innovation and design, fixing Apple, his greatest sales pitches, life’s lessons, taking the fight to the enemy and Pixar.

On Android vs. iOS

“It is worthwhile to remember that open systems don’t always win. Open versus closed is a smokescreen. Google likes to characterize Android as open and iOS as closed. We think this is disingenuous.”
— In October 2010, talking to analysts about the challenge from Google’s Android, which Apple perceived as a stab in the back by Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt — a member of Apple’s board of directors. Hark Oct. 18, 2010.

“Don’t be evil is a load of crap.”
— In January 2010 townhall with Apple employees, Jobs tore into Google for getting into the smartphone business, saying Google got into smartphones, and Apple didn’t get into search. Wired Jan. 30, 2010.

Model airplane legend Maynard Hill dies at 85

Sarah Brown:

Maynard Hill, a pioneer in unmanned and model aircraft who sent an 11-pound airplane across the Atlantic in 2003, died June 7 at his home in Silver Spring, Md., The Washington Post has reported. He was 85.

Hill, a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Hall of Fame and former president of the academy, earned 25 world records for speed, distance, and altitude over a long career of modeling. He led a team that flew a balsa-wood model airplane carrying 5.5 pounds of Coleman lantern fuel from Newfoundland to Ireland, a distance of 1,882 statute miles, on Aug. 11, 2003.

Why Amazon Can’t Make A Kindle In the USA

Steve Denning:

Take the story of Dell Computer [DELL] and its Taiwanese electronics manufacturer. The story is told in the brilliant book by Clayton Christensen, Jerome Grossman and Jason Hwang, The Innovator’s Prescription:
ASUSTeK started out making the simple circuit boards within a Dell computer. Then ASUSTeK came to Dell with an interesting value proposition: ‘We’ve been doing a good job making these little boards. Why don’t you let us make the motherboard for you? Circuit manufacturing isn’t your core competence anyway and we could do it for 20% less.’

Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. On successive occasions, ASUSTeK came back and took over the motherboard, the assembly of the computer, the management of the supply chain and the design of the computer. In each case Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. However the next time, ASUSTeK came back, it wasn’t to talk to Dell. It was to talk to Best Buy and other retailers to tell them that they could offer them their own brand or any brand PC for 20% lower cost. As The Innovator’s Prescription concludes:

Bingo. One company gone, another has taken its place. There’s no stupidity in the story. The managers in both companies did exactly what business school professors and the best management consultants would tell them to do—improve profitability by focuson on those activities that are profitable and by getting out of activities that are less profitable.

Reinventing Conferences, Again

Warren Berger:

Is it time for a new twist on the TED model? The esteemed Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference, soon to be pushing 30, has become a juggernaut–what with sellout events, the viral success of online TED Talks, and the spin-off of smaller TED-X conferences. But the conference’s original founder, Richard Saul Wurman, is working on a new creation that radically overhauls the formula used by TED–much as TED itself reinvented the standard business conference model when Wurman launched it in 1984.



Wurman, who is no longer affiliated with TED (he sold most of the rights to Chris Anderson’s Sapling Foundation back in 2002 and broke off his remaining ties with the spin-off TEDMED Conference earlier this year), recently announced plans for his new WWW.WWW conference, slated to debut in Fall of 2012. So far, he has lined up some heavyweight collaborators—R/GA’s Bob Greenberg and @radical.media’s Jon Kamen are on board, GE is an early sponsor, and Yo-Yo Ma and Herbie Hancock will see to the music. Featured guests are still to be determined, though Wurman promises that the conference will be “like a dinner party with a hundred of the world’s greatest minds having a conversation, two at a time.”



But here are a few things the show won’t have: Speeches, slide shows, or tickets. Wurman’s plan is to stage a series of improvisational one-to-one conversations, held in front of a small invitation-only audience and then disseminated to the outside world via a high-quality, for-sale app that captures the event.

Being the Last Tourist in Syria

Emmy Sky:

Is this your first visit to Syria, the passport-control man asks me. No, I tell him, I came here once before over a decade ago. He stamps my passport. I had been very lucky to get a Syrian visa this time. The travel advice was not to visit. The Syrian regime is very wary of foreigners, fearing that journalists and spies are inflaming the situation further. I collect my bag and walk through customs, passing a poster, of modest size, of President Bashar al-Assad with the words in Arabic proclaiming: “Leader of the youth, hope of the youth.”



I jump in a taxi. I ask the driver how are things in Syria. Things are fine, he assures me. There has been some trouble around the country, but things are OK in Damascus. As we drive, we chat. He points out the area where Druze live. With his hand, he waves in another direction to where Palestinian refugees live, and then again to where Iraqi refugees live. Alawites are over there and in villages. Christians this way and in villages. Sunnis are around 65 percent of the population. Kurds live in the north. Many different peoples live in Syria. I ask him how he knows who someone is or whether they are Sunni or Shiite. He tells me that he does not know and it does not interest him to know: There is no sectarianism here in Syria. We pass Damascus University. Outside there are lots of flags and pictures of Assad and his deceased father. Across the city, the Syrian flag is flying strong and photos of the president are omnipresent. As I ride through al-Umawiyeen Square, I see lots of young men and women gathering, holding Syrian flags. It is not a demonstration, a Syrian tells me; it is a celebration — a celebration of the regime. Later, I watch the event on television. It has made the international news. Tens of thousands of Syrians have come out to al-Umawiyeen Square to show their support for President Bashar al-Assad in a lively celebration that includes pop singers and fireworks.

Want to Start Your Own Business? Better Try France

Ajay Ravichandran

Since Tocqueville, foreign observers have often helped the United States to see itself in a new light, and the British thinktank ResPublica seems to be continuing in that tradition as it prepares to set up an American branch. During a recent visit to FrumForum, ResPublica founder Phillip Blond shared a presentation which included a startling fact: despite American politicians’ pro-small business rhetoric, the U.S. lags far behind most other developed countries in the share of citizens employed by small businesses.