Why We Must Think Bigger by Charles Moldow, General Partner, Foundation Capital

Charles Moldow, General Partner, Foundation Capital

Why We Must Think Bigger

FEBRUARY 22, 2013 AT 3:01 PM PT

One day, about six billion years from now, the sun will burn out.

This cataclysmic inevitability was brought to my attention over the holidays by my 6-year-old son. Far off though it may be, he believes our solar system’s imminent demise is cause for alarm sooner rather than later. (For him, that means sooner than getting a flu shot — but later than downloading the most recent service pack for Minecraft.)

Of course, I recognize my 6-year-old is thinking too far ahead. Too big.

But he did get me wondering, are the rest of us thinking big enough? Especially those of us who develop — and invest in — new innovations.

If not for being stuck on an antiquated United Airlines plane unequipped with Wi-Fi (is there any other type?), I may not have found the time to commit this thought to paper — I would likely have been overwhelmed by the next flurry of emails or meeting requests. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. In fact, as I survey the current startup landscape and consider the kinds of companies attracting VC dollars, it seems like the investing community isn’t thinking of the big picture at all.

Today, investors are less interested in transformative companies and more interested in trendy ones. Funding is flowing — and flowing fast — toward “quick-response startups.” These companies, more often than not, are launched during all-night hack-a-thons. They’re the wired brainchildren of eager coding buddies and Costco-like volumes of Red Bull. Read more of this post

Business network giants face China ‘guanxi’ battle

Business network giants face China ‘guanxi’ battle
Posted: 24 February 2013 2055 hrs

BEIJING: Professional social networking websites such as LinkedIn trying to tap into China’s vast business world are finding a formidable domestic foe — the ingrained system of personal connections known as “guanxi”.

Two leading sites, California-based LinkedIn and the French company Viadeo, are targeting networkers in the world’s most populous country, but acknowledge the challenges they face.

China has the world’s biggest online population at 564 million web users, but the history of Western Internet giants looking to establish themselves in it is littered with failures and disappointed retreats. Read more of this post

Chinese ‘Dubai’ turns into deserted island

Chinese ‘Dubai’ turns into deserted island
Posted: 24 February 2013 1349 hrs

SANYA, China: It was billed as China’s Dubai: a cluster of sail-shaped skyscrapers on a man-made island surrounded by tropical sea, the epitome of an unprecedented property boom that transformed skylines across the country.

But prices on Phoenix Island, off the palm-tree lined streets of the resort city of Sanya, have plummeted in recent months, exposing the hidden fragilities of China’s growing but sometimes unbalanced economy. Read more of this post

China’s local government debt crisis has been getting worse as national statistics show that 53% of local government debt will be due by the end of 2013

Crisis looms as local government debt to mature this year

Han Hwa-yu and Staff Reporter

2013-02-24

China’s local government debt crisis has been getting worse as national statistics show that 53% of local government debt will be due by the end of 2013, when local governments enter a peak period for repaying loans.

Financial reports recently issued by various local governments have all issued warnings, including information that they have been under heavy pressure to repay debts and deal with local financial risks that could not be ignored.

China’s National Audit Office says 42% of the debt was due by the end of 2012.

This year the local government debt crisis is greater than in the past few years due to increasing debts and mounting pressure to repay amid an economic slowdown and declining financial revenue, warned Zhao Quanhou, director of the Research Office of Finance under the Ministry of Finance’s Research Institute for Fiscal Science. Read more of this post

SimCity, for Real: Measuring an Untidy Metropolis; An initiative at New York University is joining a global drive to apply modern sensor, computing and data-sifting technologies to urban environments

February 23, 2013

SimCity, for Real: Measuring an Untidy Metropolis

By STEVE LOHR

THE notion of a “science of cities” seems contradictory. Science is a realm of grand theory and precise measurement, while cities are messy agglomerations of people and human foible. But science is precisely the ambition of New York University’sCenter for Urban Science and Progress. Founded last year, the center has been getting under way in recent weeks, moving into new office space and firing off its first project proposal to the National Science Foundation.

The center’s director is Steven E. Koonin, a Brooklyn native and graduate of Stuyvesant High School, who came to N.Y.U. after a stint in the Obama administration as the under secretary for science in the Department of Energy. He is both a theoretical physicist and science policy expert. The center shouldn’t lack for intellectual rigor.

The initiative at N.Y.U. is part of a broader trend: the global drive to apply modern sensor, computing and data-sifting technologies to urban environments, in what has become known as “smart city” technology. The goals are big gains in efficiency and quality of life by using digital technology to better manage traffic and curb the consumption of water and electricity, for example. By some estimates, water and electricity use can be cut by 30 to 50 percent over the course of a decade.

Cities from Stockholm to Singapore are deep into smart city projects. The market looms as big, lucrative business for technology companies. Read more of this post

Mayo Clinic CEO: Here’s Why We’ve Been The Leading Brand In Medicine For 100 Years

Mayo Clinic CEO: Here’s Why We’ve Been The Leading Brand In Medicine For 100 Years

Max Nisen | Feb. 23, 2013, 10:53 AM | 1,478 | 

For more than 100 years, the Mayo Clinic’s built an enviable reputation and medical practice. People all over the world regard it as one of the best places to treat any illness, and it has routinely come in at the top of hospital rankings.

We’ve already written about the Clinic’s plan to spread that knowledge worldwide, but we also spoke to CEO Dr. John Noseworthy about how the clinic built its reputation, attracts the world’s best doctors, and manages to stay at the top.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity:

What’s it like leading such a large and well-known institution in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act? 

It’s a great privilege to work at the Mayo Clinic, and obviously to be the physician leader of this fine institution is a great privilege. Yes, the law is going to change how we work, but we’ve been at this for 148 years. For well over 100 years everything we do every day is continually retooling how we work to provide safer care, better care, and more efficient care for our patients.The Affordable Care Act and everything else that’s happening in the industry is putting a sharper pencil on that, but to be candid, we’re not really reacting to the law. We’ve been on this journey for a long time to drive out waste, use technology, use our staff to provide better care.

This is just another step in our history. We’re the first and largest physician-led group practice of medicine supported by research and education, and we’ve been a model for a lot of other groups, some of whom you’ve covered. We’ve been at this for a long time.

Why has Mayo been so successful? 

I think it all comes down to our core value, which is that the needs of the patient come first. I know that might sound kind of trite in today’s world, but our staff is extraordinarily committed. If you spend a day here, and you grab anybody at the Mayo Clinic and ask them what’s the purpose of your work, they would say “to meet the needs of our patients.”

I’ve been working here 22 years and I’ve never had a physician say they’re too busy to help me with a patient, day or night. That’s probably why Mayo has been the leading brand in medicine for the last 100 years. Read more of this post

“Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More

“Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More

FEBRUARY 22, 2013 AT 10:18 PM PT

Kara Swisher

Courtesy of a plethora of very irked Yahoo employees, here is the internal memo sent to the company about a new rule rolled out today by CEO Marissa Mayer, which requires that Yahoo employees who work remotely relocate to company facilities.

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo to employees from HR head Jackie Reses. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Painfully awkward as this is phrased, it means every Yahoo get to your desks stat!

reported earlier today that the move will apparently impact only several hundred employees, such as customer service reps, who work from home full time. But numerous sources told me that the decree extends to any staffers who might have arrangements to work from home just one or two days a week, too.

The changes begin in June, according to the Yahoo memo.

After that, employees who work from home must comply without exception or quit. One top manager was told that there would be little flexibility on the issue.

The anger from impacted employees was strong today, because many felt they were initially hired with the assumption that they could work more flexibly.

In fact, even waiting for the cable guy is questionable. “And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration,” wrote Reses.

The tone and tactics have infuriated some at the company. Wrote one impacted Yahoo employee to me: “Even if that was what was previously agreed to with managers and HR, or was a part of the package to take a position, tough … It’s outrageous and a morale killer.”

Most tech companies encourage workers to stay on their campuses, offering free food and other perks. But none enforce such rules beyond staff needed to operate an office.

“Our engineers would not put up with that,” said one tech exec. “So, we’d never focus on it.”

In the comments section of my first story on the HR change at Yahoo, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg wrote:

“For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the world, and is interested in WordPress, Automattic is 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside of San Francisco.”

The issue is an interesting and controversial one, with some certain that working at home is the wave of the future, while others considering it hurtful to productivity.

Well, we’ll presumably see which this way goes in time.

Earlier, when asked about the change, a Yahoo spokesperson said the company does not comment on internal matters. The memo was released after my story on the change was published this morning.

But, you don’t need any comment when you can read for yourself the new working order at the Silicon Valley Internet giant:

YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT FORWARD

Yahoos,

Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productive, efficient and fun. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

Thanks to all of you, we’ve already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to come.

Jackie

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