The VR Gold Rush Heats Up


Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) combined are one of the hottest Next New Things in Silicon Valley — the latest California technology Gold Rush. As Boost VC partner Adam Draper said in June: “We’re in a VR excitement bubble.”

Nearly $500 billion has been invested in VR startups so far in 2015, according to Greenlight VR:

Entertainment is driving the market.  The biggest launch is Jaunt VR, which has raised over $100 million, including a recent $65 million Series C by Disney and 7 other funds.  Jaunt’s new 64-lens VR camera is initially being sold only to big studios and TV networks, which have bigger budgets and can move much faster than game developers, but smaller game studios are jumping in and will probably use GoPro’s upcoming 16-lens VR cameras. 

San Francisco is ground zero for the VR/AR startup boom.  Rothenburg Ventures, which runs a VR incubator and a new $10 million fund, hosts a bi-weekly VR Art Design Workshop to attract new startups and identify useful consumer apps. 

The VR landscape is getting crowded as startups scramble to grab market share:

However, investors may have to wait for mainstream adoption in order to recoup their investments.  Meanwhile, many VR films and startups will go bust, as during all startup booms.

How long will this investment bubble last?  At least a few more years since the VR/AR market is forecast to reach $150 billion by 2020, which is twice as fast as the Internet e-commerce grew over 5 years in the 1990s.

Why?  Unlike VR during the 1990s, which was dominated by big, expensive, clunky headsets, this generation features affordable headsets, including $10 Google Cardboard holders for smartphones and $99 Samsung Gear headsets for consumers.  Google has given away 1 million Cardboards, with another 4 million sold.  For enterprise and high-end gamers, Oculus Rift headset will reportedly sell for $1,500 early next year.  The VR market will be primed with plenty of users, but little content, so the battle for VR apps has begun.

When will VR/AR come of age?   It’s still early, but there’s a lot of corporate and VC activity buzzing around this fledgling industry.  At Augmented World 2015 in June, most of the VR exhibits looked fresh out of the lab and in search of useful applications.  Google Cardboard looks amateurish, while higher-end VR headsets are heavy, clunky, expensive and very technical. Applications are mostly automotive, industrial and high-end gaming, not something for the average business person or consumer, at least not yet.  The Oculus headset has attracted lots of attention, but it’s still for high-end gamers.

On the other hand, I recently met a wearable display developer who has created small attachable LC projectors for any pair of eyeglasses.  You just attach them to a magnet clip-on.  The screen displays a 2D LC screen, but he said it could be improved for panoramic video and eventually AR and VR.  Battery life is a problem, but easily solved by swapping out for another set from a charging box.  Simple and elegant, with lots of potential, just like GoPro in the early years.

So what will drive VR and AR adoption in volume?   Here are my bets:


Architecture, Construction & Engineering (ACE) companies are already using VR to visualize, design, and market their capabilities to clients around the world.  I’ve seen several demos, but they’re usually private showings reserved for prospects, partners and clients.  ACE is a $7.8 trillion global market and VR/AR would reduce design and travel costs immensely so it’s a natural early market.

Body visualization that allow students, nurses and doctors learn about human organs, limbs and diseases would be a boon to public health education and medical training.  When combined with wearable tech, it would reinvent the way we learn and care for our bodies.  Telemedicine would enable people in remote towns and developing nations to access quality medical services. One of my Swedish startups offers VR surgery to reduce miscommunications, which cause 70% of mistakes in the operating rooms.


Simple AR games using cheap glasses with clip-on projectors and Bluetooth to smartphones.  They would allow gamers to view and even download AR apps.  Building block and sim games, treasure hunts, visual quizzes, and other leisure games would be easy to create.

Sports viewing will be a big business since advertisers would be able to offer games, stats, contests, prizes, discounts and other goodies to support local sports clubs and school teams.

Home visualization that would allow homeowners, architects and interior designers to add rooms, textures, extensions, and other features would make it easy to redesign homes and neighborhoods.  It would tap into the natural curiosity and desire to visualize and build things without spending any money.  Some realtors are already using 360 video to sell properties.

Role-Playing to teach social etiquette, business practices, intercultural relations, professional roles, and other important social skills will become increasingly important in a service economy where people are becoming isolated by smartphones.

These are just some of the VR/AR applications that appear to have some traction among early users.  Once Oculus and other VR headsets decline in price, we’ll see an explosion of mobile apps that tap the power of VR/AR processing.  Here’s a BBC video about the future of VR to get your creative juices flowing:

In Sweden, my startup team is promoting VR Sustainable Cities among policymakers, design companies, and sports clubs. Join us and share your ideas!


Launching Global Media Startups


by Sheridan Tatsuno, Dreamscape Global, San Francisco, CA

How do you launch a successful global media company?  Where are the opportunities, challenges and pitfalls?

As a screenwriter and a Silicon Valley tech strategist and serial entrepreneur co-launching my 8th and 9th startups, I believe we’re at the cusp of a revolution in digital media and entertainment – Hollywood 2.0 – which will overturn existing industries as digital news and music have done in the past.

With the explosion of mobile media, crowdfunding and digital currencies, “blue ocean” opportunities are limitless around the world. Like Internet 1.0, entrepreneurs are likely to be the leaders in creating new business models and industries. But the mobile cloud boom will be much, much bigger.  There were only 100 million PC users when the Internet went commercial in 1994; now there are 6+ billion mobile users worldwide.


Where are these opportunities and how can you capitalize on them?  The fastest-growing media opportunities today lie in mobile video and gaming, community clouds, personalized e-commerce, and Asia. Mobile video is forecast to reach $2.5 billion in 2016, up sharply from $1 billion in 2013, with Asia becoming the largest market. (

Facebook and Pinterest are expanding their mobile video capabilities so look for ways to integrate mobile advertising with them, especially Pinterest, which is product-driven. Flash sales and auctions on Instagram, Snapchat and other mobile platforms are potential new markets.

The entertainment gaming market is saturated so some gamers are shifting to business, education, nonprofits, and government since these organizations need to attract and retain Millennials who prefer enjoyable ways to collaborate real time via mobile devices. Bunchball and Badgeville are leaders in gamifying marketing and sales. In Sweden, my friend developed a mobile game where hospital employees reduced energy costs by 30%.

Corporate training is ripe for reinvention since it is a $50 billion market that is broken and ineffective. My startup, TruNorth Global, is focused on this space. Within a few years, most companies will recruit, train, motivate and collaborate using a variety of real-time mobile training and Big Data tools and systems. The early applications will be sales and marketing, legal and financial compliance, financial trading, HR training, and other areas where competition, regulations and costs are critical factors.

Public education is being reinvented by Khan Academy, Coursera and other e-learning startups, but they still use traditional video lecture approaches. New startups are creating interactive training that involves challenges, contests, and other gaming approaches.

English language training is popular, but multilingual platforms will be key for selling to Asia, Europe and cities with diverse populations.

Cisco has found that community clouds among universities are becoming popular ways to reduce costs and share resources.


The era of “build it and they will come” is over. Today, discovery is the biggest challenge facing all gaming, video and fashion companies since app stores and the Internet are saturated with competitors. How does one build a strong fan base and community?

Creating compelling videos on YouTube and Tumblr to a loyal fan base has moved beyond periodic ads to news channels. Crowdfunding using social media is a way to test the viability of new products, but tends to favor hardware products and media celebrities. If you don’t have a celebrity, how do you attract attention and build traffic?

Today, you need to build an interactive and iterative process where you are constantly in touch with your customers and fans, from sample content and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), through crowdfunding, full production, marketing and distribution. Ask customers what they want and how they want it and offer contests and challenges.

For early startups, building on AWS, IBM, and other cloud services is cheaper and faster. There are dozens of CRM (customer relationship management) and social marketing services that you can use to engage and track your fan base. See these vendor sites for Use Cases on how their media customers are using their services and study their success stories. Many platforms offer startup services and incubators so shop around for the best deal.

Once you build a core audience, post your startup on and local angel groups. Look for accelerators in your area that can connect you with investors.

Silicon Valley investors and media giants are currently seeking to invest in and acquire media platforms with market traction, so think through your value proposition to them and your “exit strategy” since investors seek a return within 5 to 7 years.

In San Francisco, my partners have launched RFS 9 Hollywood 2.0, an informal group to invite developers who can build media startups, which can be pitched to our network of a few thousand Silicon Valley angel investors, so tell your developer friends:


Most media creators I meet are “starving artists” because they only focus on creative production and forget the business side. It’s called “showbiz” for a reason, so focus on finding a savvy business partner. George Lucas was able to build Star Wars into a sustainable global franchise because he mastered the business aspects of the film industry.

Here are some immediate steps to take:

  • Learn as much as possible about business (finance, accounting, marketing, sales, distribution, partnering, negotiations, etc.) through online sources, e-learning, books, classes, workshops, events, business clubs, and friends. Your business experience should be a lifelong process since markets are constantly changing.
  • Study and interview successful gamers and filmmakers to learn how they succeeded, especially in the critical first years. Post your learning and discuss them with your team, fans and partners to find ideas that are applicable to your business.
  • Establish your own media club on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and/or other social media services in order to build your community of partners, fans and volunteers and share games and videos online, not just promote your company site. Media is a collaborative effort so you need to build a loyal fan base like Star Wars or Minecraft by starting small and building over time.  In 2010, I launched Silicon Valley Global Network to connect entrepreneurs around the world; it now has 28,000 members and is growing organically. SVGN has opened many doors to new business ideas, partners, and opportunities. Building it has only taken a few minutes a day; it could be monetized as an entrepreneurship channel.
  • Find a seasoned business partner who can manage these issues full time, so you can spend most of your time creating. The best referrals will come from friends and people in media companies, business clubs, incubators, and alumni groups
  • Work with local business groups, chambers of commerce, universities, tech hubs to build a critical mass. In the mid-1980s, I volunteered with to introduce Silicon Valley chipmakers to Bangalore, which had the ambitious goal of becoming “the Silicon Valley of Software.” I thought it would take 20 years, but they shocked us all by taking off in 10 years. So aim high, start small, collaborate and work hard!

In Silicon Valley, we’ve learned that nobody can predict the future, so we focus on building software and hardware products, moving fast, learning from mistakes and failures, and constantly iterating. There’s no easy way to the top, but as former Apple and Disney designer Alan Kay said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So invent your own future with your business partners and fans! Then you’ll have something valuable to share with the world.


Silicon Valley Global Network:

The Spirit of Silicon Valley


Stanford Campus

“Silicon Valley is a state of mind, not just a place.” This idea has often been quoted, but it only touches the tip of the iceberg. Silicon Valley is not just a state of mind; it is a spirit of sharing and “paying forward” to new entrepreneurs and society.  It’s about giving and celebrating together, not just taking from others.

In their rush to copy Silicon Valley, many regions around the world try to clone the valley’s institutions and best practices — our state of mind — but they fail to understand our original small-town spirit of sharing and collaboration.  It is this sharing of risks, glories and failures that separates us from the most of the world, which usually punishes risk-taking, sharing and failure and shuns “losers.”  Our “Operating Spirit” (OS) is our “secret sauce” that give us a huge advantage over other regions who think it’s only about institutions and funding.  We believe in giving people second, third, fourth and more chances — serial entrepreneurship — since we know that most startups fail.

When I was a child, Silicon Valley was mostly farmland, with San Jose a small town of 100,000 people. Our parents were farmers, shopkeepers and factory workers.  Computers and chips did not exist; we created things with our hands and shared our results.  Only when NASA launched the Apollo Project and the Pentagon the Vietnam War did the valley boom and attract engineers, which I wrote about in my e-book, “In the Valley of Digital Dreams” (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble).  When NASA reached the moon in 1969, it laid off nearly all of its engineers so tech unemployment soared to nearly 35%.  It was an economic disaster, but the valley was such a pleasant place to live that engineers stayed put, shared ideas, built stuff in their garages, and joined emerging chip startups like Intel, AMD and National Semiconductor.  In the face of massive layoffs, we remembered to hang together and help each other out.  That was the original spirit of Silicon Valley that I remember so well.

Silicon Valley has gone through numerous booms and busts, each time bigger, faster and more global than the previous one.  The current mobile/cloud boom is no different, just much bigger and faster.  Each time, the dedicated valley residents ride out the downturn, cutting their expenses and searching for the Next New Thing, then inventing it with friends.  They don’t want to miss out on the rocket ride when it comes. It usually comes much faster than expected due to our collective efforts, creating thousands of startups and toppling giant corporations.

What is Silicon Valley’s “secret sauce”?   Sharing.

Our sharing culture reveals itself in several ways:

– We love brainstorming and sharing ideas with friends and colleagues anywhere, anytime, at dinners, cafes, parties, weddings, picnics, or family gatherings.

– We love building new stuff together, sharing suggestions and feedback, and seeing whether it will “stick” (gain market traction).  If it fails, we try again until we figure it out.  Failure is only for quitters.

– We build sharing services around office space, cars, rental apartments, anything thing that moves or can be occupied, since the Bay Area is very crowded so sharing is more economically efficient and rational.

– We love sharing contacts, introductions, tips and suggestions to colleagues and newcomers, knowing they will reciprocate with their own new ideas and technologies.

– We share the fruits of our successes as well as lament our losses together.  I’ve co-launched eight tech startups; six failed but one went public last year — Audience Inc. — so I know the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster very well.  The latest — — is gaining market traction.

– We compete fiercely, but we know that winners will pull up all of us since technology is not a zero-sum game, but an exponential growth industry where success attracts investors and leads to more success.

– Most importantly, we share our time, knowledge, enthusiasm, energy and help with others, knowing that good karma comes back manyfold to all of us and that WE is much more powerful than ME.  That’s what makes Silicon Valley so successful and inspiring.  We share to create something bigger and better than our own companies and lives.  We are building a global community.

So when people ask me “How can we create a Silicon Valley?”, I advise them to study our heart and actions, not just our technologies and institutions.  Then they will discover the real Silicon Valley and the reasons behind our successes.  The secret lies in the heart, not just the mind and the pocketbook.

San Jose Metro interview with me:

To buy “In the Valley of Digital Dreams” e-book:

Growing Your Business in the U.S.


By Sheridan Tatsuno, Executive VP, TruNorth Global; Partner, DFM Ventures

The U.S. is probably the most competitive market in the world because of its openness and rapid innovation. Offering great products and services is not enough, even for U.S. companies.  For newcomers, the challenges of language, regional and cultural diversity, and state and local regulations can be bewildering.  What is the best way to start growing your business in the U.S.?  What are the pitfalls?

Build Local/Sell Global.  For young companies, I recommend developing your products and services initially at home to maintain R&D control, minimize costs, and get user feedback.  Keep your engineering team at home since U.S. costs can be very high.  In late 2010, Rovio’s Chief Marketing Officer Peter Vesterbacka said Rovio did all engineering in Finland since Silicon Valley salaries were about three times higher, about $180,000 vs. $60,000 for a comparable engineer. Rovio had a hard time competing with Google, Apple and Facebook in attracting top Silicon Valley engineers since they have a wide choice of higher-paying jobs.  By contrast, Finnish engineers are more loyal, especially due to the massive Nokia layoffs.

To minimize costs, do your engineering initially at home and hire sales and marketing managers in the U.S.  Listen carefully to your U.S. marketing/sales team and avoid “remote control management” where your headquarters makes all the final decisions. A San Jose State University professor found a 85% failure rate among foreign companies deciding marketing/sales from home. Financial and legal issues can be handled by local firms.  In terms of finance, legal issues and marketing/sales, “do as the Romans do.”

In 1994, I advised Nokia’s digital phone launch team, which consisted of about 50 young people between 21 and 27 years of age, on the consulting team of Strategos, headed by London School of Business Professor Gary Hamel.  They had little or no experience marketing overseas, so I advised them to hire the top marketing managers in each target market, train them in Nokia’s technologies, then do what they suggested.  Nokia was doubtful about their chances for success since no Finnish electronics company had ever succeeded abroad.  But they listened to their offshore marketing managers and become #1 in 3.5 years, beating Motorola, which sent shock waves through Silicon Valley.  So it is possible for newcomers to dominate global markets in several years with the right products and brilliant marketing and sales. 

Rovio is the latest example.  Peter Vesterbacka said Rovio thinks big and global. They want to become the next Disney, so they’re building the Angry Birds franchise into movies, webisodes, theme parks, etc., like Disney did.  Recently, they launched a Star Wars version with Lucas Entertainment.

Minimum Viable Company What is the minimum you need to get started?  Initially, you can set up operations by traveling to the U.S. for up to 90 days to find an attorney, accountant, and a marketing/sales representative or manager.  Your marketing/sales rep can work from home.  If you want local visibility, you can rent a desk at one of the many incubators or accelerators, which charge around $300 to $400 a month for a desk and access to WiFi, conference rooms, and events.  Local startups can suggest the best deals.  Don’t waste your money on trying to look impressive.  Save your money for airfare and showing your product at the many local events.  Make sure to collect business cards and always follow up immediately to build your visibility and brand.  Think lean!

Professional Service Costs – Legal and financial advisers can be very expensive, especially for large firms that charge up to $500 or more per hour.  To minimize your costs, ask local entrepreneurs and professional associations who can recommend small firms or individual professionals, which can cost half as much. 

Marketing/Sales ExpensesThese costs are variable since everything is negotiable.  Although you can find marketing/sales reps willing to work for commission-only (success) fees, it’s easier to find a rep if you pay a retainer of $2,000 to $3,000 a month, plus sales commissions.  For startups, you can offer stock options, typically 1% to 10%, which can be “vested” (given) to the rep over four or five years.   Determining sales incentive programs is probably the most challenging since there is so many options mixing base salary, sales commissions and stock options.  Get advice from other entrepreneurs to get a feel for the incentive rates.  If you hire someone, there are plenty of HR (human resource) firms that can quote you current salary rates.  

Even for U.S. companies, finding and keeping great marketing/sales people is very difficult but U.S. professionals will work initially for less money if you have a great product/service and they have much freedom and autonomy to set marketing/sales strategies.

Important Qualities for U.S. SuccessListening carefully to local marketing/sales managers like Nokia initially did and acting boldly like Rovio are critical since U.S. companies are much louder, bolder, aggressive and fast.  Think of the U.S. like the Olympic Games; only the top teams win.  To survive, let alone thrive, you must listen, be bold and constantly innovate.  Avoid becoming smug like Nokia.  Complacency kills!

Podio of Denmark is the latest success.  I met its CEO a year ago when he searched for angel funding, but I told him it would be difficult to raise if he had no local presence and team.  He marketed himself actively and was recently acquired by Cytrix in less than half a year.  Not all startups can get acquired that fast, but if you have great products, you can always find buyers in the U.S. since we have so many M&A (mergers and acquisitions) firms and aggressive companies seeking hot technologies. 

Going public is much more difficult, even for U.S. companies, so plan on generating sales fast and building incrementally. Your goal should be to build a solid company, not just seek M&A or IPO.  Most U.S. companies remain private to maintain control.  

Solid Business Model – The biggest error that foreign entrepreneurs make is to focus exclusively on their products and services, not business models.  U.S. investors want proven business models that have been validated by customers, either three or four enterprises or several hundred thousand consumers.  Without market traction or validation, it’s very hard to raise angel or VC funding. So focus on finding customers first!

Initial Startup Costs —  To get started in the U.S. market, allocate at least $20,000 for air travel (2 trips), lodging (couchsurfing with friends is best to save money), event fees, and marketing/sales retainer salaries for six months.  Your goal should be to find corporate clients or generate consumer sales as fast as possible to validate your business model.  Ask startups about their costs; many entrepreneurs are fairly open since they want to learn best practices from other startups.   

If you’re not getting customers within two months, immediately revise your product plans and tailor your product or service based on customer feedback.  Don’t waste time trying to raise angel money until you get positive feedback.  Basically, think like a “lean” company:  move fast and keep your costs as low as possible. For ideas, ask startups from your city who are expanding into the U.S. how they’re doing.

Entering the U.S. market is only for bold entrepreneurs and companies who are willing to work hard, minimize their costs, and work closely with their customers.  You can succeed if you constantly revise your product or service until you get positive feedback, then start building since investors will become very interested. 

The Mobile Learning Franchises of the Future


The current boom in MOOCs (massive open online courses) is changing the face of learning.  Once limited to public and private institutions, learning is now available to anyone with an Internet or cellular connection.  How will this change the nature of education?  Where are the business and nonprofit opportunities?  Where is e-learning likely to take us?

The Changing Nature of Education

MOOCs are transforming education from a static, institution-centric, stay-in-your-seat experience into a mobile, user-centric experience that is instant, interactive, and collaborative, where students can access materials 24×7 and collaborate in team learning.  Teachers as well as students become mentors or coaches, not just repositories of knowledge, which can be easily accessed online in greater variety and depth.  Education becomes a dynamic, global learning community, similar to the political learning stimulated by the Arab Spring.

Emerging Opportunities

Top universities like MIT, Stanford and Harvard are no longer just knowledge dispensers, but recruiters of the next Einsteins.  MOOCs are digital filters that enable professors to quickly spot, track and recruit the top students worldwide, intensifying the talent search.  Like sports, college recruiting will become a high-stakes battle for mind share and market share. The top students are the magnets for attracting corporate and government research funding as well as venture funding for student-run startups like Google and Facebook.

The Future of E-Learning

MOOCs will become multi-billion-dollar franchises, like the NFL, NBA and World Cup Soccer franchises, with star professors commanding huge salaries and corporate sponsorships and star students attracting corporate jobs and angel funding.  Think virtual Stanford entrepreneurship on steroids. 

The MIT Sloan School already partners with professional U.S. sports franchises to conduct Big Data analytics research with top corporate sponsors.  Besides being the source of Big Data research and startups, this program provides the forum for identifying and managing new talent.

For entrepreneurs, there will be an explosion of mobile learning startups targeting every market sector, just as we saw in e-commerce during the 1990s.  Increasingly, training will become central to marketing and sales.  Example:  Apple’s Genius Bar trains users how to optimize their systems for specific tasks.  In the near future, product training will be available to tablet and smartphone users.  The most successful companies will be those that train customers HOW to use their products and services efficiently and effectively, which will require bite-size training modules, interactive questions-and-answers, mentoring, community forums, resources, tools and vast libraries.  The future “virtual schools” will be gamified, making the top ones irresistible to consumers, who can win points, credits, coupons and other rewards for referrals and high scores.

This vision may sound far off, but it’s right around the corner because Silicon Valley VCs are watching this sector closely.  In 1994, while working at Stanford’s EE Department, my interns and I sat around visualizing the future of the Internet. I thought it would be a few thousand stores selling maybe $1 billion in goods, which sounded far-fetched since all information was free, but I missed by a huge margin when Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Google and other startups showed up and developed totally new business models.  My friends later kidded me, saying:  “Why are you so conservative all the time?”  I just shrug my shoulders and reply:  “I lack imagination — compared to the crowd.”


2013 Outlook: 7 Big Trends Affecting Entrepreneurs


As we open 2013, I would like to share my thoughts on big trends that will affect entrepreneurs and innovators:

1.  The U.S. “Fiscal Cliff” will lead to ongoing uncertainty, restraining corporate investments and consumer spending through 2013 and possibly into 2014.  Not a great time to start or build a company?  Wrong.  The best startups are capital efficient and leverage either ignored or fast-growing markets.  What are some of these?

2.  Global Mobile Cloud Boom.  IBM, HP, Amazon, Dell and others are promoting cloud services —- private, public and hybrid clouds — which are booming right now.  Now it’s possible for sole entrepreneurs and small businesses to get free CRM and other useful mobile apps (see and cheap cloud services, which enable startups to go global out of the starting gate.  The next Amazons, Groupons and Facebooks will be built on public clouds, then expand to hybrid clouds.  The market is global so expect fast growth in the underserved BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) markets.

3.  Grassroots Services and Content Creation:   Smartphones and tablets democratize technology so it’s possible for poor farmers in India and China to create and post their own content.  Watch for a boom in grassroots services from “the bottom of the pyramid.”  The next great fortunes will be made in Africa, the Mideast and Asia, which have young, fast-growing populations.  A must read:  The Takeover of Mobile Internet [Infographic] from ChurchMag  and the first African-designed smartphone and tablet: 

4.  Mobile Learning:   Mobile devices make it possible to learn anywhere, anytime, especially with the rise of Khan Academy and thousands of other PC and mobile learning startups and universities like MIT and Harvard offering free and credential courses.  A must read:  The End of the University as We Know It – Nathan Harden – The American Interest Magazine

5.  Marketing Revolution:   The shift to grassroot mobile devices means the former product-push marketing and sales approaches won’t work.  Instead, listening and collaborating with customers who are treated as friends and guests will become the new paradigm.  Market demand and “user buzz”, not marketing hype, will take over and undermine companies stuck in past methods.  A must read: Entrepreneurs Learn New Rules for Real Influence via @bloggerplugins

6.  Crowdfunding is the future for entrepreneurs.  Existing financial institutions are too slow, rigid, closed and conservative to keep up with the fast-moving pace of grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship, so we’re seeing a boom in crowdfunding and other forms of micro-financing.  A useful crowdfunding news site is Crowdfund Insider.

7.  Lean innovation is the future.  Due to ongoing recession, budget cutbacks, and high unemployment, entrepreneurs must think and act “lean” and not waste time or money.  They must reinvent business processes since we have totally new tools, markets and systems.  Reinvention or reset is the new buzzword.  Here’s a good article on lean innovation:

A young Chinese man is circling the global in search of the next Silicon Valleys.  His report on China is excellent. Offer to meet him and tell him about your region. | VentureBeat via @VentureBeat

I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that you share your energy, goodwill and knowledge with others to build a better world for all of us.  Peace!

3D Printing: How Soon and How Big?


Recently, 3D printing has become a big topic in Silicon Valley because of the rise of “boutique manufacturing”, which combines engineering and IT design skills in new ways.  Desktop 3D printers from Mojo and ThingLab have stirred the imaginations of hobbyists, developers and researchers alike:;

Are these just hobbyist toys or will they revolutionize business and society as visionaries believe?   The truth is somewhere in-between.  Short-term, 3D printers will probably be limited to leading-edge ventures, researchers and other early adopters, just as the PC and desktop publishing were during the 1980s.  However, over time 3D will go mainstream, especially if Apple developers introduce 3D design templates and apps. 

What does this 3D printing future look like?  How soon will it be? 

As Wikipedia notes, 3D printing is already used in a few early adopters in jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many other fields.  Source:

To see examples, use Google and Bing image search for 3D printing. 

The early applications are rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing.  In December 2012, at a Silicon Valley Innovation Institute program (, a local designer from Ponoko showed a variety of artificial legs created using 3D printers, including designer legs with mesh designs. 

Among hobbyists, ornaments, gears, coat hooks and other simple designs are common. But software is rapidly enabling more complex designs.  The open source Fab@Home project has developed printers for general use and , as Wikipedia notes, research into advanced applications is moving fast. 

My friend Steve Naegele raises an interesting question in his blog.  What about rapid copying?   How can designers protect their 3D designs from piracy?

As I mention in his blog, I think copyright and patent laws will be extended to 3D printing.  Designers could submit their files, which would be checked by users by accessing 3D design databases via smartphones.  Like chip designers today, designers could embed secret codes or design mistakes into their files as a way to catch copycats.  There would be no guarantee that this will protect 3D designers, just as designers are quickly copied today, but at least the legal framework is in place under WTO and international copyright laws. 

So how will 3D printing affect you and your family?  We may see a 3D printing boom, just like the desktop publishing boom, during the next decade.  Many entrepreneurs will build businesses around 3D printing services. Your kids will print out their own toys (Lego will make a fortune!). Small printers and manufacturers will install 3D printers to make and distribute popular products, with authorized dealers selling Star Wars, Spiderman and other franchise toys and accessories.  Instead of storing and shipping products, toymakers and other consumer companies will set up local 3D printing centers worldwide, run by subsidiaries or franchisees, to beat competitors to the market. The Christmas season, which is currently a huge bottleneck for gift manufacturers, will be where companies make huge profits since it will reduce their time-to-market, shipping and storage overhead, and marketing costs.  They would shift from produce-in-advance to print-on-demand.  Production would be determined by users, not manufacturers.   

With global networks of 3D printing centers, small businesses could go global and become major corporations overnight if they develop hit products.  3D printing will look more like Hollywood blockbusters; a few will dominate, while most designs will remain small in the “long tail.”  

So that’s my vision for the future of 3D printing. It’s fun thinking about the future and how it will create opportunities for many people.   I welcome your comments, ideas and suggestions.  


Advising Russian Business Parks and Resorts



Recently, I was asked to serve on the International Advisory Board to RUSSEZ, a state-run management agency recruiting foreign companies and investors to Russia’s business parks and resorts.  I’ll meet the agency folks this week in Moscow to prepare for our 2013 invitation campaign.

Suggest how the Russez website can be improved for foreigners:

To follow Russian business trends, see my new Facebook group:

Photo:  Ekaterina Bragina handles foreign pharmaceutical investments.  Vadim Dubovik, a PhD who worked at Deloitte, is Deputy CEO of in Moscow.   Contact Vadim at:  vdubovik at



Dresden Seeking Social Media Partners


My colleague Ralf Lippold in Dresden is seeking social media partners around the world.  He writes:

I am a passionate social media / network enabler working on bringing together art, science, and technology in my beautiful city of Dresden News (City of Dresden), and at the meanwhile globally connect with passionate global citizens around, just like Sheridan, making the impossible a soon reality.

I am a passionate blogger about ballet, and opera, and following Singularity University’s, and Peter H. Diamandis activities to spread the use of information technology within rising fields, and create a state of Abundance (of opportunities to create economic wealth).

More on my actions on

Thanks a lot for your support, and connecting with Dresden 

Ralf Lippold

Social Media Ambassador at Abundance Hub; Studied Business Dynamics at MIT Sloan School of Management

Ralf asked on Facebook:  “What is the MVA (Minimal Viable Action) that can be done without waiting for the big money to flow in? What is currently holding back DREWAG – Stadtwerke Dresden GmbHand Dresden News (City of Dresden) to act?”

My reply:

The Silicon Valley process is fairly straightforward: Need/Opportunity -> Minimum Viable Product (MVP) –> User testing (customer validation) –> Refine MVP –> Keep testing to acquire evangelists (early adopters who love your produce/service and create “user buzz”) –> Investors show up when they hear “user buzz” (not vendor marketing hype) –> seed funding –> keep building fast before competitors pass you by. This process can be done in weeks, but can take over 12 months for more complex, scientifically-based systems.

I hear about Dresden incubators, but investors want to hear “user buzz” about hot Dresden startups. Are there any? Which ones are hot? Who are the smartest entrepreneurs in Dresden? What are they doing that is novel or interesting? Spend your time finding them. Many will be 19 to 30-year old college students dropping out to work on their interesting ideas. Also, laid-off corporate people trying to create something new. Develop a list of Hot Dresden Startups and write about them.How about posting these names and startups on a Hot Dresden Startups group on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter? Everyone knows Germany has great engineers and wants to know about its great entrepreneurs.

“Market pull” startups funded by startups are better than “tech-push” startups funded by government (e.g. Skolkovo, Russia).  Focus on building hot startups that solve big problems or needs. Don’t waste your time chasing government or VC funding. If the startup is hot, angel investors and VCs will show up. Example: Draper “found” the former Kazaam founders, who left the U.S. after their music piracy service was shut down by lawyers, in Luxembourg and Stockholm, then invested $2M into their new Skype service.

In summary, regions and startups should be focused on markets and customers, not government subsidies for technology development, which is very common in Europe.  The best startups are very lean and capital efficient.  Their lack of money forces them to work with customers early and provide real benefits to them.  In the early stage, less is more.  As the saying goes:  “Money is a poor substitute for imagination.”

Ralf Lippold replies:  Some names that come to mind are Wadim Sus Low Matthias Röder Matthias PinkertIan Whalen Rainer Wasserfuhr. Some startups worthwhile watching (locally and globally) based in Dresden areHeliatek GmbH Novaled Paulsberg. A former power plant as the platform for accelerated art, and technology startup creation in Dresden? Certainly, and information technology, and free Wifi could even more so accelerate it right here in the middle of town. cc Dirk Hilbert Bettina Bunge

Is College Overrated?


The New York Times just ran an article where college dropouts starting companies challenge the value of college.

As a college grad and serial entrepreneur (8th and 9th underway), what do I think?  Should young people ditch college to start their ventures?

Yes, if you have tested a prototype product or service with customers and are getting some positive response, I believe by all means that you should drop out and try building your venture.  In the mid-1980s, Michael Dell called me from his dorm at U. Texas Austin just as he was dropping out of his sophomore year to launch Dell Computer.  But Michael was no amateur; he was already generating $80,000 a month, with a 40% gross margin, so I encouraged him to jump ship.

I wrote about my amazing conversation with Michael Dell in my new e-book, “In the Valley of Digital Dreams,”

However, most young people don’t have proven businesses like Michael.  Should you still try?  Yes, but you should probably stay in school while developing your prototype so you can get constant feedback from other students, friends and their families.  As Mark Zuckerberg and Dell learned, college is a great testbed for startups.  And you’re more likely to succeed selling to your generation than older people.

Given the high cost and fierce competition to get into top colleges, I believe you shouldn’t attend if you don’t want to be in class.  Save the space for a more driven student.  If your startup fails, you can always attend or go back to college, a lot wiser and knowledgeable than your classmates, and you can always try again.  If you decide to go to college and want to be an entrepreneur, save money by enrolling in a local community college to get your basic education, then transfer to a local state college that has a strong department and professors in your chosen major.  You’ll save money for your startup and you can still get a good education if you choose properly.  Given a choice, try to major in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subject and credentialed programs so you have practical, hands-on skills that will enable you to get a job.  Paying your bills while building your startup is probably the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs.  Even part-time work can buy you the time, usually years, required to launch a sustainable startup company.

Entrepreneurship is a mindset, a process, an education and a lifestyle, not a destination.  Approach it like learning to play a music instrument and you’ll enjoy the process.  And perhaps someday you’ll make it to the business equivalent of Carnegie Hall if you practice and work hard enough for at least 10,000 hours.

P.S.  A Bunch Of Students Think They Have Found The Next Mark Zuckerberg via @sai