Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Event: 'Rethinking Technology As If People Matter '- Sunday In SF

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 23, 2015

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Please join me for this fine event, this Sunday, April 26, 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm in the Presidio. It's organized by Tom Mahon, a Silicon Valley veteran and sponsored by Ahimsa, the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, plus other interfaith organizations.

"Rethinking technology as if people matter," is a topic that is missing in our current discussion of tech yet it used to be a subject area that was very much in the fore for many people in Silicon Valley, for many decades. I don't think interest in this topic has gone away — it's just hidden by the current media fascination with startup valuations and billionaire millennials.  

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Cotopaxi: Largest Series A Funding For B Corp Startup

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 21, 2015

Davis Smith - CEO Cotopaxi

I recently met with Davis Smith, founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, an e-commerce startup that recently raised a $6.5 million Series A round, for a total of $9.5 million --the largest amount ever raised from institutional investors by a Benefit Corporation.

A "Benefit corp" or B Corp is a legal designation that differs from the normal "C corporation" whose fiduciary obligations are to maximize shareholder profits or risk lawsuits. B Corps have a legal duty to fund a humanitarian mission from their profits.

Cotopaxi does good from the profits in selling outdoor gear.  Each backpack, jacket, or water bottle is linked to a specific humanitarian project.

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Birst: Business Analytics Starts With Clean Data—GIGO

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 16, 2015

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I had an interesting media roundtable meeting with Birst, the cloud-based business analytics company that recently raised $65 million in a Series F, and a total of $156 million.

Major VC firms such as Sequoia Capital and Hummer Winblad, are backing the company as it seeks new customers and battles for a dominant position in cloud-based analytics.

Jay Larson, CEO (above) is 25-year industry veteran of SAP, Oracle, SuccessFactors, and Jive Software. He says the business opportunities for Birst are extraordinary.

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Smartphone Sensors Sense User's Needs

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 15, 2015

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Intel Free Press reports on moves to harness smartphone sensors to help apps better personalize their services based on context...

By Intel Free Press

The 2013 film “Her” featured an operating system that could personalize itself to the user to the extent where the intelligence appeared anything but artificial. By taking cues from user data and its environment, the OS was able to respond to the user’s needs, even on an emotional level. While “Her” was science fiction, progress in the area of contextual computing is bringing such intelligent systems one step closer to science fact.

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Silicon Valley And God — Can Churches Solve Local Problems?

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 9, 2015

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Pat Gelsinger (left) greets SiliconValleyWatcher at a VMware event in February 2015, next to John Furrier of Silicon Angle.

The Silicon Valley/San Francisco region has one of the lowest church attendance populations in the US, 30% below the national average

Silicon Valley's culture is often described as Libertarian and heavily influenced by the thoughts of Ayn Rand, an outspoken atheist. But there is room for everyone and in 2015 we might begin to see some signs that Unicorns and a belief in God, are not mutually exclusive. 

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Intel Capital Leagues Ahead In VC M&A Exits

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 8, 2015

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Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of microprocessor chip giant Intel, had 252 exits by M&A in the ten years since 2005 — a stunning 82 more deals than second placed New Enterprise Associates with 174, and Accel Partners with 148. 

Pitchbook's ten year analysis can be seen above. It has also looked at healthcare IPOs because they have had strong post-IPO gains in 2014.

Newer "Micro-VCs" such as Dave McClure's 500 Startups and Jeff Clavier's Softech VC did well, with 68 and 54 M&A exits respectively. 

Silicon Valley Investments Nearly Quarter Of Global VC

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 7, 2015


First quarter 2015 Silicon Valley venture capital investments totaled $5.4 billion in 327 deals, representing nearly one-quarter of all VC investments globally. [Source: Pitchbook]

The median pre-money valuation of a startup jumped by 35 per cent in just one quarter to $40.7 million. Industries funded: $2.1 billion in IT  $1.2 billion in healthcare; $1 billion into B2C. A regional breakdown of VC investing: Visualizing VC activity in 1Q ’15 by geography | PitchBook Blog

The Enormous Energy Demands Of The Internet of Things

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 7, 2015

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Intel Free Press reports that wireless power could become the best way to supply energy to billions of connected devices. If a solution is not found then IoT won't happen...

By Intel Free Press


With 25 billion connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices expected to come online by 2020, finding an adequate and efficient way to power each device is critical to the success of this emerging technology.

A “connected thing” could be anything from a smartphone and laptop, to a wireless sensor network, medical and military equipment. Connected things are also found in electronic signage, digital merchandising and even inventory tagging. And each of these “things” can contain a multitude of sensors.

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Intel's Pocket Avatars App Ignored By Millennials...

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 31, 2015

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Intel Free Press writes about a discrete Intel project aimed at Millennials that is having problems reaching millennials because it looks too much like a children's app...[Advice to Intel: If an app flops it never gets a second chance — keep the underlying tech but rework the UI. And use your brand.]

By Intel Free Press

In 2014, Intel navigated into new waters when it released Pocket Avatars, a messaging app available for iOS and Android, which is aimed at the millennial demographic and allows users to send expressive, short video messages using preselected characters or avatars.

While there are an abundance of messaging applications for mobile devices, Pocket Avatars differentiates itself by allowing users to map their facial gestures to a chosen 3D avatar, including the likenesses of Katy Perry, Lego, Annoying Orange and even President Obama.

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Ideas Can Be Funny: From Ridiculous Color To Meerkat Love

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 25, 2015


Meerkat, a live video streaming smartphone app, is the startup of the month judging by screen upon screen of media love for all things Meerkat. But Color, a very similar smartphone app, was ridiculed four years ago.

Color Labs, founded by serial entrepreneur Bill Nguyen (above), raised a $41 million round in March 2011— and triggered a cacophony of clueless criticism in the media.

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Laura Locke Profile On Flipboard...

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 20, 2015


Laura Locke, a long-time San Francisco based journalist for Time magazine and the BBC, is profiled in an interview by Flipboard as part of its promotion of its recently introduced curated magazine format. 

Here is an extract from: What I’m Reading: BBC News Reporter Laura Locke | Flipboard

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'Growth Hacking' Makes Me Twitch - 5 Lessons For Enterprises

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 20, 2015


Erin Steinbrugge is COO of, where she authored the Growth Hacking 101: Rookie Template; and is a contributor to the Accelerate St. Louis startup ecosystem. 

Guest post by Erin Steinbrugge

If there is one area where marketers excel, it’s continually redefining and rebranding the role of marketing itself. As a marketer at heart, I appreciate the continual innovation yet sometimes cringe at the latest and greatest buzzwords and emerging new job titles. The latest title that has caught my fancy and that of Silicon Valley over the last couple years is “growth hacker.”

What exactly is a Growth Hacker?

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Bloomberg: How Silicon Valley Back-Room Deals Make Unicorns And Decacorns

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 18, 2015

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Startup stories rarely focus on the product or service but on the valuation and funds raised, as if that's what's most important about a company.

Valuations are a trend story but on an individual basis, it says little about the viability of a startup business, or the innovations it is pioneering.

Many people get excited or upset about valuations of startups, even though it does not reflect any actual value — as in a public stock company — it simply reflects the views of a very small number of private investors in a private company.  

Startup valuations are manipulated in one way or another, and for a variety of reasons; some of those reasons are reported in this excellent Bloomberg Business story by Sarah Frier and Eric Newcomer: The Fuzzy, Insane Math That's Creating So Many Billion-Dollar Tech Companies

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Divino Group Launches

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 17, 2015

DivinoA shout-out to my friend Chris Knight, co-founder of a brand marketing and PR agency: Divino Group, which launched today! Chris was Global Technology Lead at Ruder Finn and in senior positions at Cohn & Wolfe and GCI Group.

Chris and his six co-founders, want to reinvent the traditional PR agency model. It's a tough job and I wish them the best of luck reinventing PR. Many have tried but the important thing is to keep trying until someone succeeds. Maybe it'll be Divino Group.

Tech + Community: SAP Opens HanaHaus Coffee Shop/Co-Working Space In Palo Alto

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 17, 2015


SAP, the giant German enterprise software company, today unveiled "HanaHaus" a 15,000 square-foot coffee shop and co-working space located on University Avenue inside the historic Varsity Theater.

SAP has a large research center in Palo Alto. The idea for HanaHaus came from Hasso Plattner, co-founder of SAP,  who's interested in the process of innovation and how people collaborate to create new ideas. 

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Angelpad Tops National Accelerator List As Y Combinator Drops Out

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 17, 2015

Rice University, MIT and the University of Richmond, today at SXSW unveiled their annual list of ranked startup accelerators. Y Combinator was top last year but this year it reclassified itself as a seed fund. 

The top 20:

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From Round To Square To Round About Again -Trends In Gadget Designs

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 16, 2015

Michael Sheehan and Marcus Yam from Intel Free Press show their smart watches at IDF 14. 

Intel Free Press has noticed that square designs are becoming too square and the world is moving to rounded shapes for its wearables and other gizmos... (Why can't we have triangular?)

By Intel Free Press

Take a casual survey of personal technology and electronics on the market today and you will notice the majority of them are rectangular in shape. But there is a rising trend, or perhaps a return, to more rounded design.

The smartwatch is the latest area of debate of round versus square. The circular screen of the Motorola Moto 360 Android Wear watch makes it stand out among competitors with more traditional, rectangular screens, such as the Samsung Gear, Pebble and even the upcoming Apple Watch. Just revealed at the 2015 Mobile World Congress (MWC), the LG Watch Urbane and Huawei Watch smartwatches both also have perfectly round displays.

Why round?

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Embargoes And The Rebirth Of Trade Media

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 13, 2015

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In this Guest Post, PR industry veteran Mike Maney makes a strong case for embargoes. I work with embargoes because publishing a press release before its time is not a scoop. If I'm smart enough, I can come up with an original and exclusive angle on an important story, from having time to ask the right questions. 

By Mike Maney

A common complaint among the media is that embargoes are the spawn of Satan. An unnecessary evil foisted upon reporters for the sake of squeezing every last drop of digital ink from a marketer’s jargon-filled pitch.

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Congratulations! Ubergizmo's Eliane Fiolet Awarded French 'Knighthood'

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 12, 2015

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Eliane Fiolet in a Paris subway train on the superb Traveling Geeks trip that she helped organize in December 2009.

Congratulations to Eliane Fiolet, co-founder of Silicon Valley's Ubergizmo news site for being awarded France's  Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite!

The award recognizes exceptional service in the public sphere. Eliane has worked with many French startups, providing advice and sharing her Silicon Valley connections. She also helped the French Embassy Trade Office with a variety of projects. There will be a presentation ceremony on March 17 in Paris. 

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Every Company Is A Media Company: Can Journalists Redefine Their Careers?

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 10, 2015


Thursday evening in San Francisco I will be emceeing an event organized by NerdWallet, exploring the topic of journalists, "redefining their careers outside traditional media."

Newsrooms are still shrinking and some publications, such as GigaOm,  have closed recently. This is pushing companies to fill in the gap in media coverage by producing more of their own media content. Every company is a media company because they have to, they don't have much choice. 

NerdWallet has more than 50 journalists creating content to help people with financial decisions. 

Here's the details:

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New Media Disrupted: GigaOm Web Sites Suddenly Stop Publishing

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 9, 2015


Above, at the recent Crunchies Awards, Om Malik (right) is told by Mike Arrington, founder of news site Techcrunch, that there's far more money in investing in startups than there is in publishing.

The management of GigaOm, the San Francisco-based publisher of tech focused web sites, has abruptly "ceased operations."

GigaOm was founded by Om Malik (above, right). The following notice was posted:

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Secure Islands: Protecting Corporate Data As Soon As It's Created

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 9, 2015


Secure Islands, a privately held Israeli computer security company, opened its US HQ earlier this year in New York City. The company is confident in repeating the success it has enjoyed in Europe,  here in US enterprise security markets, with its approach to data protection.

Its technology automatically classifies and if required, encrypts sensitive data upon creation, as opposed to when it leaves the organization, which is traditionally how encryption has been managed.

This process, which it calls "Data Immunization," enables organizations to set classification polices which are automatically applied when a file or email is created. If encryption is required, the protection stays with the data wherever it ends up.  This way, if it is stolen, no one can read the data except the intended readers. 

I recently spoke with Aki Eldar, co-founder and CEO of Secure Islands. Here are some of my notes:

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Visual San Jose Photo Contest Focuses On Historic Images

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 7, 2015


Credit: San Jose Mercury

Charles DiLisio is a prominent Silicon Valley photographer focused on preserving the region's history. He tells me there's a new photo contest: Visual San Jose

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Survey: Greater CEO Publicity Can Boost Company Reputation But Majority Of Execs Also See Potential For Harm

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 5, 2015


Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber has had lots of publicity, much of it bad (above with Mike Butcher at Crunchies Awards in February 2015).

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are coming under increasing pressure to "engage" with the media and the public as means of raising the reputation of their company. 

PR firm Weber Shandwick, today released the findings of a global survey of 1,700 executives excluding CEOs, titled: "The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era." It found a correlation between the health of a company the public reputation of the CEO. 

 [Please note: I've worked with Weber's Mediaco service on client media projects.]

The release of the Weber report coincides with the publishing of a new book, "The Engaged Leader" by Charlene Li, principal analyst at the Altimeter Group.  She advocates that CEOs should strive for "intimate relationships" with consumers.

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The 'Blue Dress' And The Incredible Scalability Of Content

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 4, 2015

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The recent vast viral distribution of "The Dress" story through Buzzfeed, and many other popular news sites, created a media tsunami.

It's an example of Foremski's First Law of New Media at work!

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'Clean Cloud' Panel: Silicon Valley Giants Agree On Green Energy

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 3, 2015


Sustainability gurus from Facebook, Yahoo and Ebay all agreed that green energy is good for their users and good for the planet, on a panel Tuesday evening in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club of California.

The "Clean Cloud" event was part of The Commonwealth Club's sustainability initiative, "Climate One." Its goal is, "Changing the conversation about energy, economy and environment" by broadcasting live events featuring local business leaders and advocacy groups.

The panel was moderated by veteran TV and radio presenter Greg Dalton, and founder of Climate One, and will be shown on Northern California stations KRCB TV 22 and heard on PBS radio station KQED.

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What's Google Up To? It's Going To Become A Wireless Telco With iIs Own Fat Backbone...

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 2, 2015

Sometimes the future is very predictable...

Google Confirms Plans for Wireless Service - by Brian Chen.

A person briefed on Google’s plans... said the company wanted to make use of the fiber network it had installed in various cities to create an enormous network of Wi-Fi connections that phones could use to place calls and use apps over the Internet. In areas out of reach, Google’s network would switch over to cell towers leased by T-Mobile USA and Sprint, this person said. - NYTimes March 2 2015

From SiliconValleyWatcher August 2005:

What's Google up to? It's going to become a wireless telco with its own fat backbone...

I think it is very clear what Google's strategy is, or rather has to be. I think it is getting ready to do a wireless telco buy. Because everything is rapidly being walled up into gated communities, and the gatekeepers are the cable companies and the wireless mobile phone companies...

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Marissa Mayer Marks Yahoo's 20th Anniversary With Interview

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 2, 2015

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Steven Levy on Medium's Backchannel, has an exclusive interview with Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, to mark the 20th anniversary of Yahoo and celebrate some of her achievements:

Despite a lift in employee spirits and stock price—Yahoo shares are about triple their value at the summer of 2012, when Mayer joined—her detractors are charging that it’s too little too late...

Yahoo is marking its 20th anniversary, and Mayer wants the event to be seen as more celebration than wake. And after fending off wonkish calculations that the entire worth of her company was owed to its $40 billion share of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba...

Marissa Mayer Has Completed Step One — Backchannel — Medium

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Guest Column: The Complexities Of Governance In The Age Of Data 2.0

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 26, 2015

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A data lake...

The following is a guest column from Sharmila Mulligan, CEO and founder of ClearStory Data.

By Sharmila Mulligan

In the late 1990s, organizations struggled to solve the problem of who gets access to more information, more applications and more data. As enterprises began amassing more data and making it available to employees, partners and customers, security considerations escalated.

We saw rapid innovation in security technologies. The first single sign-on applications emerged together with many other authentication technologies.  And we saw the first appointments of Chief Security Officers (CSOs), helping these essential applications to proliferate in the enterprise with beneficial results.

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Twitter CEO Wants More Readers - No Tweets Needed

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 25, 2015

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Golden doors of Twitter HQ - Twitter says it is gentrifying the Tenderloin

The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo, interviews Twitter CEO Dick Costello. He discusses some of the misconceptions about Twitter such as having to "Tweet." He says you don't have to. 

He also recommends improv comedy lessons to managers so that they can, "Be in this moment." Plus, there will be "varying degrees of severity" in dealing with harassment on Twitter.

Please see:Christmas Day On Twitter's Street - The Not-So-Sunny Side Of SF's Tech Boom -SVW



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