Cleantech is not a market category

Summary: Cleantech describes a category of companies defined by products that tread more lightly on the planet than alternatives. This grouping is more like Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) than it is like a “market category” that defines a career or that shows consistent patterns of financial performance. This matters a lot because categories provide context to entering talent, entrepreneurs, investors, LPs, analysts, and media, for example around the space of future career moves and around focus areas in a portfolio.

Everyday we throw around words like sector, industry, space, and so to describe some category of companies or products or market segments that we have in mind. Most of the time, precise definitions don’t matter because people get what we’re trying to say. But in certain contexts, these categories become important—for example, when they help talent define and signal themselves as “enterprise” or “consumer” or when they help investors define and signal focus areas in their portfolio. Continue reading

Online Marketplaces and the Democratization of Commerce

David Haber of Spark Capital writes in The Magic of Liquidity:

The Internet provides the perfect medium to aggregate the long tail of fragmented and illiquid markets. This dynamic has made the opportunity for creating online marketplaces so compelling.

The post includes an update to an earlier popular graphic by his colleague Andrew Parker that shows emergence and growth of (and need for) a range of focused marketplaces from what used to be aggregated in Craigslist (or managed by various intermediaries): Continue reading

The Underhyped Enterprise Market and Consumerization of Enterprise

Summary: There remains a lot of potential in applying consumer product thinking and culture to enterprise problems. It will continue to change how we work in dramatic ways.

At TechCrunch Disrupt, Jim Goetz of Sequoia said:

“It’s shocking we don’t see more engineers and entrepreneurs interested in enterprise” the Sequoia Capital partner said earlier this week at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

Twice as many enterprise startups have become billion-dollar companies compared to consumer startups, he says. Continue reading

Is statistics more relevant than calculus?

Here are a couple of big framing questions:

  • What skills and body of knowledge does a specific individual need to learn for him or her to be a contributing member of society?
  • And is it possible to learn the skills–like “how to learn” or critical thinking or quantitative reasoning or managing projects–in the context of a body of knowledge that’s relevant to doing something in the world, rather than knowledge that–in most cases–is an intellectual or academic or test-driven pursuit?

As one albeit narrow example of that, mathematician Arthur Benjamin suggests, in the short TED video below, building quantitative learning up towards statistics rather than calculus. Would parts of algebra fall in the same category as calculus?

What are your thoughts on the framing questions or pointers to others’  good thinking?

What’s missing in today’s university education?

Ezra Klein writes:

In recent years, many top universities have tried to guide their students into careers other than finance…

Wall Street — like a few other professions, including law, management consulting and Teach for America — is taking advantage of the weakness of liberal arts education.

For many kids, college represents an end goal. Once you get into a good college, you’ve made it, and everyone stops worrying about you. You’re encouraged to take classes in subjects like English literature and history and political science, all of which are fine and interesting, but none of which leave you with marketable skills…

What Wall Street figured out is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates… Continue reading

Saving good ideas from death-by-committee

Brad Coffey of Hubspot offers a thoughtful anti-dote to the death-by-committee problem for good ideas at organizations that have grown past a certain stage:

  1. Give teams goals, and the autonomy to hit those goals.  Don’t legislate the process – only the end results
  2. Keep teams small. Don’t let the room get too large so people can make decisions and move forward.
  3. Identify a DRI (designated responsible individual).  That person owns the decision, not the entire room.  This is critical for cross functional decisions.
  4. Require transparency. Hold people accountable to these decisions by reviewing the success of the decision, and then keep iterating.

 Read the entire post.

Updated:  The same topic was covered in Fred Wilson’s MBA Mondays in a guest post by Scott Kurnit founder of About.com on company culture:

Input, not consensus: This may be the biggest for me since it’s the major thing I can point to for why AOL crushed Prodigy in the pre-internet online world. I still have nightmares of 18 people sitting around a table trying to make a pricing decision. It took Prodigy over a year to adjust pricing to be more in line with – and trump AOL and it took Steve Case’s AOL one measly day to respond. One year… one day. I still get chills. Rather than have the indecision of 18 people, pick one to be the decider as the very first action. Trust me, that person feels the weight and authority when they own the decision. They’ll get a ton of input… rather than having endless discussions. Group decision-making makes people fearful of engaging with the concern that it will never end. When one person’s in charge… they want to hear it all. And fast. And get it right. And crisp. And done!

What will Education 2.0 look like?

Did you catch Khan Academy on 60 Minutes last Sunday? Watch it. Now. And make sure to watch the 2 minute web extra on School of the Future. Have you ever wondered about all those aspects of schools today that didn’t make sense. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way…

It’s exciting to see the growing number of entrepreneurs and investors taking on education in disruptive ways–both K-12 and higher ed. FWIW, there are some “serious” folks that think the time is right: Continue reading