entrepreneurship

Except this time, that co-founder might actually have a case. Valley Wag is reporting that Douglas Warstler is suing Yik Yak’s two co-founders for excluding him out of Yik Yak. The basic story is that the three started a company with 1/3 ownership each that created and launched Yik Yak.

(Yik Yak is a location-based, anonymous chat app popular in schools. My start-up’s app, feecha, actually started out as something similar, so the fact that Yik Yak is more successful is a testament to the importance of execution. But that’s a story for another day.)

Two of Yik Yak’s co-founders graduated from university and moved to a different city while Warstler had a year left that he intended to complete. The two co-founders didn’t want a long distance, part-time situation and tried to buy him out. Warstler refused. And so the other two co-founders transferred Yik Yak to a new company and didn’t give Warstler any shares.

That’s what happened in a nutshell.

Typically, when these kinds of stories appear, my bias is with the remaining co-founders who actually built the business (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat). In this case however, my sympathies are with Warstler if what’s alleged is actually true.

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I had dinner with a friend a few months ago. He is the head of a 500-person company, and he was telling me how he wished there was an off-the-shelf mobile app they can use as an internal directory for his company, given the company was at a size where not everyone knew everyone. So that he could walk into a meeting and his phone would tell him who everyone is, what they do and how he can reach them later.

I told him Yammer was probably that product. He had never heard of Yammer. A few weeks later I followed up to see whether he had installed Yammer and he said no, he was too busy to get around to it.

The Financial Times is now reporting that Facebook is testing a Facebook at Work product. Or, basically, another Yammer; a closed social network for companies. The reason why I think it can work is the reason my friend hasn’t heard of Yammer — everyone knows Facebook and is already on it.

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There’s a fascinating article on Reuters on the state of Google Glass — in summary, that entrepreneurs, companies and investors are abandoning the platform because there is no market yet. I read it with mixed feelings.

In my entrepreneurship class at Stanford, my lecturer Andy Rachleff pointed out that being first to market is not a demonstrative advantage — rather, it’s first to product-market fit that’s critical. Google was not the first in search, but the first with the right search product. Once it built its lead, it was impossible for competitors to catch up.

So when Google opened up its Google Glass program, why did so many developers flock to it? I can’t recall a unicorn-level company ever winning because it was first to a technology platform. In mobile, Instagram and even Whatsapp had many predecessors. Uber was not invented at the start of mobile’s lifecycle; only later. I can’t think of a company that succeeded because it was simply there earlier than others.

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As Stratechery pointed out, it’s conventional wisdom that Xiaomi is an Internet services company. That selling smartphones at break-even prices is merely a gateway for selling profitable services. Except this might all just be a marketing ploy, because Xiaomi does make money from hardware, and quite a lot of it.

As much as 92% of Xiaomi’s 3.46 billion yuan profit (or $566 million US dollars) is from hardware. That’s profit, not revenue.

Let’s start with how Xiaomi’s CEO, Lei Jun, describes the company:

We’re actually an Internet company. We’ve already got a business in mobile phone hardware and we want to add to that an Internet platform. We can earn money from that, once it’s established. People just don’t get it. The mobile phone itself is only the carrier. Microsoft used to sell Windows in a box with a CD in it. Does that make Microsoft a paper box company? The box and the CD are only the carrier. If people don’t understand this, they can’t understand [Xiaomi].

Wouldn’t Microsoft be a paper box company if paper boxes actually generated 92% of its profit? If people cared more about the paper box than whatever’s inside?

An Internet company might be what Lei Jun wants Xiaomi to be one day, but right now it’s squarely a smartphone company.

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My OnePlus One review and the nine customizations I recommend for it are among the most popular posts on this blog. It’s easy to see why. Even with the all the new phones coming out for the holidays, the OnePlus One remains one of the best phones you can buy. If you can stomach not being able to take a phone into a store nearby for customer service, the One’s combination of power, price, aesthetics and software is nigh unbeatable.

So of course I noticed that OnePlus is moving from an invite to a pre-order system, similar to how you’d pre-order an iPhone or Xiaomi. People must log on the moment the system opens up and it’s a mad scramble to be among those who click nanoseconds faster than others.

To no one’s surprise, the OnePlus One pre-order page went bust when it opened to spike in traffic earlier this week. To think that it’s enough to merely double server capacity is naive!

Anyway, I hate the whole system. It’s not consumer friendly and it’s not company friendly either. Here’s how I would have done it.

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Maybe even the most important. Re/code is reporting that Larry Paige is handing off the day-to-day management of Google’s major products:

It’s a very big portfolio for one of Page’s senior product lieutenants and a fast-rising company executive. The highly respected Pichai will now have purview over research, search, maps, Google+, commerce and ad products and infrastructure. And he will continue to keep his existing responsibility for Android, Chrome and Google Apps. The six executives in charge of newly added product areas, all of whom previously reported directly to Page, will now report to Pichai.

What a bold, audacious move. First, acknowledgement is required for Pichai’s rocket ship rise to the top. This guy is only 8 years older than me and is now the point person for much of $370 billion company. Absolutely amazing. Getting recognition as the leader in a sprawling organization like Google couldn’t have been easy.

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As an entrepreneur or CEO of a company, you might think it’s hard to find the time to do anything outside of work, family and a hobby or two. Well, Mark Zuckerberg runs a $200 billion dollar company, and he still found the time to learn Mandarin Chinese.

I learned Mandarin Chinese and let me assure you — it’s a really tough language.

But Mark was interviewed recently at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing and spoke entirely in Mandarin Chinese! Wow!!

That puts me to shame — I don’t even know if I dare do that, and I learned Chinese while young. Mark’s accent is funky, but it’s definitely understandable and he has a decent vocabulary.

If you can understand Chinese, see the 30 minute interview below.

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