Business and Social Frog Soup – are we ready for the next decade?

Over the past couple years I have written several stories with “frog soup” as a main theme. The idea of being in cold water, and not recognizing the degree by degree Frog soup concerns for the American economyincrease of heat in the water, till at some point we are cooked, is the danger of being a cold-blooded animal. Business may follow a similar course.

In business we can follow the route of “this is the way we’ve always done it, and it works, so there is no reason to change our processes or strategies.” Innovations like virtualization or cloud computing hit the headlines, and many say “it is a cool idea, but we want the security and hands-on confidence of running our own servers and applications.”

In the United States many telecom companies continue to build business cases based on “milking” telephone settlement minutes, bilateral relationships, and controlling telecom “pipes.” Internet service providers (ISPs) continue holding on to traditional peering relationships, holding out for “paid peering,” doing everything possible to attain market advantage based on traffic ratios.

Nothing new, same ideas, different decade.

It is international frog soup.

In Vietnam the government is currently planning to build an entirely new information infrastructure, from the ground up, based on the most cutting edge telecom and data/content infrastructure. Children in Hanoi go to school at 7 a.m., take a quick lunch break, hit the books till around 5 p.m., take another break, and finish their day at study sessions till around 9 p.m.

Concentration – mathematics, physics, and language.

The children are being exposed to Internet-based technologies, combining their tacit experience and knowledge of global interconnected people with a high degree of academic sophistication.

In the United States children go to school for, at most, 6 hours a day, graduating with (on average) little capabilities in math or language – although we do have deep knowledge of metal detectors and how to smoke cigarettes in the restrooms without being caught. In Los Angeles, some locations cannot even hit a 50% graduation rate among high school students.

And oddly enough, we appear to be comfortable with that statistic.

Perhaps our approach to business is following a similar pattern. We become used to approaching our industry, jobs, and relationships on a level of survival, rather than innovation. We may not in some cases even have the intellectual tools to apply existing technology to the potential of functioning in a global economy. Then we are surprised when an immigrant takes our job or business.

Some universities, such as Stanford, aggressively recruit students from foreign countries, as they cannot attract enough qualified student s from the United States to meet their desired academic threshold. And once they graduate from Stanford, they find their way into Silicon Valley startups, with an entrepreneurial spirit that is beyond the scope of many American graduates.

Those startups have the intellectual and entrepreneurial tools to compete in a global economy, using innovative thinking, unbound by traditional processes and relationships, and are driving the center of what used to be America’s center of the global innovation world. Except that it is only based in Silicon Valley, and now represents the center of a global innovative community. Possibly due to the availability of increasingly cheaper American labor?

Frog Soup

Us Americans – we are getting lazy. Innovation to us may mean how we manipulate paper, and has nothing to do with manufacturing and business innovation. We are starting to miss the value of new products, new concepts, and execution of business plans which end up in production of goods for export and domestic use. We believe concentration on services industries will drive our economy into the future, based on products and other commercial goods imported into our country.

Except for the painful fact and reality we do not have a young generation with the intellectual tools to compete with kids in Hanoi who are on a near religious quest to learn.

The temperature is rising, and we as a country and economic factor in the global community is being diluted every day.

Time to put away the video games and get back to work. No more “time outs,” only time to roll up our sleeves and learn, innovate, learn, innovate, and innovate some more. Forget comfort, we are nearly soup.

A Cloudy Future for Networks and Data Centers in 2010

The message from the VC community is clear – “don’t waste our seed money on network and server equipment.” The message from the US Government CIO was clear – the US Government will consolidate data centers and start moving towards cloud computing. The message from the software and hardware vendors is clear – there is an enormous Data Center within a Data Center Cloudinvestment in cloud computing technologies and services.

If nothing else, the economic woes of the past two years have taught us we need to be a lot smarter on how we allocate limited CAPEX and OPEX budgets. Whether we choose to implement our IT architecture in a public cloud, enterprise cloud, or not at all – we still must consider the alternatives. Those alternatives must include careful consideration of cloud computing.

Cloud 101 teaches us that virtualization efficiently uses compute and storage resources in the enterprise. Cloud 201 teaches us that content networks facing the Internet can make use of on-demand compute and storage capacity in close proximity to networks. Cloud 301 tells us that a distributed cloud gives great flexibility to both enterprise and Internet-facing content. The lesson plan for Cloud 401 is still being drafted.

Data Center 2010

Data center operators traditionally sell space based on cabinets, partial cabinets, cages, private suites, and in the case of carrier hotels, space in the main distribution frame. In the old days revenue was based on space and cross connects, today it is based on power consumed by equipment.

If the intent of data center consolidation is to relieve the enterprise or content provider of unnecessary CAPEX and OPEX burden, then the data center sales teams should be gearing up for a feeding frenzy of opportunity. Every public cloud service provider from Amazon down to the smallest cloud startup will be looking for quality data center space, preferably close to network interconnection points.

In fact, in the long run, if the vision of cloud computing and virtualization is true, then the existing model of data center should be seen as a three-dimensional set of objects within a resource grid, not entirely dissimilar to the idea set forth by Nicholas Carr in his book the “Big Switch.”

Facilities will return to their roots of concrete, power, and air-conditioning, adding cloud resources (or attracting cloud service providers to provide those resources), and the cabinets, cages, and private suites will start being dismantled to allow better use of electrical and cooling resources within the data center.

Rethinking the Data Center

Looking at 3tera‘s AppLogic utility it brings a strange vision to mind. If I can build a router, switch, server, and firewall into my profile via a drag and drop utility, then why would I want to consider buying my own hardware?

If storage becomes part of the layer 2 switch, then why would I consider installing my own SAN, NAS, or fiber channel infrastructure? Why not find a cloud service provider with adequate resources to run my business within their infrastructure, particularly if their network proximity and capacity is adequate to meet any traffic requirement my business demands?

In this case, if the technology behind AppLogic and other similar Platform as a Service (PaaS) is true to the marketing hype, then we can start throwing value back to the application. The network, connectivity, and the compute/storage resource becomes an assumed commodity – much like the freeway system, water, or the electrical grid.

Flowing the Profile to the User

Us old guys used to watch a SciFi sitcom called “Max Headroom.” Max Headroom was a fictional character who lived within the “Ether,” being able to move around though computers, electrical grids – and pop up wherever in the network he desired. Max could also absorb any of the information within computer systems or other electronic intelligence sources, andFrom the old SciFi series Max Headroom deliver his findings to news reporters who played the role of investigative journalists.

We are entering an electronic generation not too different from the world of Max Headroom. If we use social networking, or public utility applications such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail, our profile flows to the network point closest to our last request for application access. There may be a permanent image of our data stored in a mother ship, but the most active part of our profile is parsed to a correlation database near our access point.

Thus, if I am a Gmail user, and live in Los Angeles, my correlated profile is available at the Google data cache with correlated Gmail someplace with proximity to Los Angeles. If I travel to HongKong, then Gmail thinks “Hmmm…, he is in HK, and we should parse his Gmail image to our HK cache, and hope he gets the best possible performance out of the Gmail product from that point.”

I, as the user, do not care which data center my Gmail profile is cached at, I only care that my end user experience is good and I can get my work done without unnecessary pain.

The data center becomes virtual. The application flows to the location needed to do the job and make me happy. XYZ.Com, who does my mail day-to-day, must understand their product will become less relevant and ineffective if their performance on a global scale does not meet international standards. Those standards are being set by companies who are using cloud computing on a global, distributed model, to do the job.

2010 is the Year Data Centers Evolve to Support the Cloud

The day of a 100sqft data center cage is rapidly becoming as senseless as buying a used DMS250. The cost in hardware, software, peopleware, and the operational expense of running a small data center presence simply does not make sense. Nearly everything that can be done in a 100sqft cage can be done in a cloud, forcing the services provider to concentrate on delivering end user value, and leaving the compute, storage, and network access to utility providers.

And when the 100sqft cage is absorbed into a more efficient resource, the cost – both in electrical/mechanical and cost (including environmental costs) will drop by a factor of nearly 50%, given the potential for better data center management using strict hot/cold aisle separation, hot or cold aisle containment, containers – all those things data center operators are scrambling to understand and implement.

Argue the point, but by the end of 2010, the ugly data center caterpillar will come out of its cocoon as a better, stronger, and very cloudy utility for the information technology and interconnected world to exploit.

Defining Business Dynamics of Broadband Communications

Hunter Newby is on a mission. A mission to tear down the shroud of confusion preventing Americans from being wired into global Looking into the telecom futurecommunications at the same level as our neighbors in Asia or Europe. It is all about delivering broadband communications to every addressable device or person wired into the global communications matrix.

Hunter, CEO of Allied Fiber, is on a mission to build and deliver high capacity utility fiber optic infrastructure around the United States, connecting every possible carrier hotel, metro fiber provider, wireless tower, and international cable landing station into a nation-wide, neutral communications resource that will push the United States to achieve our economic, social, and academic goals.

“Fiber as a term is very over-used and misunderstood. Defining what “fiber” means in the context of a conversation, business opportunity, route, or all of the above is essential, or else you can totally miss the point.” (Hunter Newby)

Allied Fiber is Not Alone

Kaufman Brothers (KBRO), a New York investment banking company is sponsoring an event on January 12th in New York entitled “Technology Trends 2010.” One session within the conference is “Bandwidth: The Increasing Value of Fiber.”

Bringing together thought leaders from broadband companies, who would normally compete with the national carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, QWEST, and Level 3, the conference will address and debate the misconceptions of delivering broadband telecom access to the country, as well as establish a framework of how the emerging fiber industry may help the US meet its broadband objectives.

During this panel we will help define the differences between various forms of fiber and their consequent value, including routes (metro vs. regional vs. long-haul), locations (residential vs. enterprise vs. data center), and services (dark fiber vs. private line vs. Ethernet). We will also more broadly discuss some of the drivers for bandwidth growth including increasing low latency requirements, use of online video and storage/SaaS/cloud computing, as well as the necessary requirements to provide fiber-to-the-tower backhaul. (TMC/KBRO)

If you listen to the marketing story of large carriers, the issue with broadband and emerging applications, such as video over Internet, is that carriers cannot afford to build and deliver the infrastructure needed to support the applications without creating a new model of internet traffic shaping and pricing.

In short, this means that carriers are currently concerned with controlling and managing application development and growth – and not as concerned with the vision of how our communications infrastructure should be designed and prepared to meet the “wired” needs of our next generations of users.

Or in even shorter and simpler terms, an 8 year old school girl in Bemidji has an expectation that we (as an industry) will deliver her a physical platform that gives her the tools to diffuse 21st century technology into her life at a rate which exceeds her counterparts in Seoul.

The Role of Thought Leaders and Investment Bankers

Industry leaders such as Hunter Newby and Dan Caruso (another panel member at the KBRO conference) have been digging up the ground, laying fiber, building data centers, and supporting the telecom and Internet community for a couple decades.

Offended by hype, these guys have earned their tacit knowledge and tacit experience campaign ribbons through many years of living and designing the telecom infrastructure we are using today. They have worked alongside, and even directed, much of the laundry list of industry pundits who grace the media with dazzling visions of the future.

Once the dazzle settles, the thought leaders and investment bankers role up their sleeves and start planting development milestones on paper.

And for a country the size of the United States, those milestones depend on both building, and understanding the dynamics of fiber optic infrastructure. Lots of fiber optic infrastructure. And questions…

For example, is the fiber “dark, or lit”? If it is dark, is it available for lease? What is the age of the fiber? What type of fiber is it (NZDSF, or SMF)? Where can it be accessed along the route – only in the regen colos (regeneration sites with adjacent collocation)? Are they carrier-neutral colo’s? What are the terms and costs associated with the lease, or IRU? What route does the fiber take? Is it diverse from other routes? Is the route shorter than other routes thus producing a lower latency between the endpoints than other longer routes? Are there wireless towers that can be easily accessed by the fiber? And so on… (Hunter Newby)

Americans Can Sleep Well Tonight

Knowing there is a growing movement within our senior telecommunications industry through leadership should give us some “peace of mind.” While day-to-day we may worry about job loss, inflation, mortgages, and clawing our way ahead, it is easy to lose track of what infrastructure is needed to keep our country competitive.

While the average person may read about Hunter Newby, Dan Caruso, and other soldiers in the infrastructure army thinking “well, that is nice – not sure how it applies to me…,” the reality is your 8 year old daughter depends on them to get it right.

Your 8 year old daughter in Bemidji, Minnesota, is growing up in a global community and economy. She is no longer competing with a girl in Thief River Falls or Baudette, she is competing with an 8 year old girl in Seoul, Ramallah, or Singapore.

To compete she will need access to all the broadband access and available network-enabled applications that will be available to other 8 year old girls throughout the world.

Hunter knows this, the investment banking community is waking up to both the opportunity and responsibility, the fiber companies are energized, and now we need to be thankful the telecom thought leadership community has prioritized our personal and national interests.

The new generations will have Gigabit access to wireless networks, home access to fiber networks, business access to broadband networks – as a country the United States will get wired. We will be competitive in the global wired world, and the 8 year old girl in Bemidji will have access to every possible utility and intellectual tool she needs.

Take no prisoners guys…

Mentoring in Vietnam with Ian Bromage

I first met Ian Bromage while he was doing volunteer work teaching ISO9000 theory in Mongolia with the United Nations Volunteers. Having learned he was now working in Vietnam, I was very happy to have an opportunity to meet with him, and talk about his experiences and work since leaving Mongolia. We met in Hanoi at the Hilton Hanoi Opera on 2 December 2009.

Pacific-Tier: Today we have Ian Bromage, Organization Effectiveness Advisor with the Voluntary Services Overseas/VSO, part of the UK government. Hello Ian! How are you doing tonight?

Ian Bromage VSO in Hanoi VietnamIan Bromage: I am fine, thank you, and very much enjoying the evening!

Pacific-Tier: Why don’t you give us a little about your background – how did you get to Hanoi?

Ian Bromage: Well, my background really is in telecoms, I worked for British Telecom for a very long period of time. But a few years back I decided I wanted to do something different, so I went and did some traveling, and then went to work in Mongolia as a small business advisor for the United Nations Volunteers/UNV.

Then I really got the development bug, I went back to the UK and did some further studying, and decided I wanted to go abroad again, and that’s how I ended up in Vietnam, Hanoi, with the Voluntary Service Overseas. And I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here so far.

Pacific-Tier: That’s very interesting. Going from a corporate environment to a volunteer environment, primarily outside of your home country. What is the incentive, and what is the interest to take you outside of your own country, work in developing areas like Mongolia, Vietnam, or emerging economies?

Ian Bromage: Really I guess I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and it’s been a fascination with different cultures – that’s one of the key motivators. And I think you get an entirely different experience working in a country abroad than you get as a tourist. You get to know the people more, you get to know the issues more, and I enjoy working as a volunteer. Both because I quite like the ethos of giving up my time to help others, but also because I do actually just enjoy it.

So being a volunteer isn’t about being a martyr or suffering, or anything like that – it’s nice to have a good experience as well.

Pacific-Tier: That’s great. Having many years with a company like British Telecom, it does give you a lot of organizational expertise, a lot of training, a lot of tacit knowledge and experience that is impossible to get through school. And you’re turning that into a product you can deliver today to your Vietnamese counterparts. How do the Vietnamese themselves respond to your mentoring and direction, are they what you expect?

Ian Bromage: yes, and I certainly enjoy working with them, and alongside them, and I think it is important to emphasize the fact it is working with them, not managing them. I here to help, I am not here to direct their organization.

I think you mentioned the word “tacit knowledge,” and I think that’s the key. I think we forget how ingrained things are in our culture, like meeting deadlines, like planning things in a certain way. Things are done differently here. Some of those things are very good, and some of those things need to change if the organization is going to be effective, if they are going to meet their objectives from both their donors who are giving them their money (if they’re talking of the NGO sector), and more importantly their beneficiaries that they’re trying to help.

Pacific-Tier: That’s very interesting. You mentioned the NGOs, so we’ll drill into that in just a moment. But even with the NGOs, or governmental organizations, you’re starting up a new organization, you are starting up a new way of doing things, that could roughly be parallel to commercial startups, or entrepreneurs… What is the entrepreneurial spirit of the people in Hanoi, are they excited about what you are doing with them?

Ian Bromage: yes, I believe so. I think in general in Hanoi, I think you can see there is a huge entrepreneurial spirit. I mean you look at the streets, and there isn’t a bit of space that hasn’t been turned over to some sort of private enterprise. So that entrepreneurial spirit is definitely there, and in the NGO sector, that (the entrepreneurial spirit) is there too.

There is a lot of competition for resources, a lot of NGOs are operating in the same space. That brings advantages of competition, they have to be effective, do what they do well to survive, which is an ongoing concern. It also brings problems in the fact it causes a lot of fragmentation. Sometimes I think the organizations cloud learn to collaborate with each other better, and to work better together to see the advantages to working towards common goals.

Pacific-Tier: You’ve been primarily in a mentor’s role. Have you learned anything, either Mongolia or Vietnam, have you learned anything (yourself) by being in the countries?

Ian Bromage: To be patient is certainly one of the skills you learn in a developing country. You realize sometimes that people’s values are different from your own. Sometimes you learn the importance of family relationships and familiar are often more important than the relationships at work. I think that is something we could probably learn.

For example, where I work at the moment, everyone sits down to lunch together. They make sure they all have their lunch, then eat together. There’s a lot of conversation, there’s a lot of jokes, that is very different from the environment I come from where so often these days people just grab a sandwich, eat at their desks, get to their work and don’t speak with other people.

Pacific-Tier: We do need to sit back sometimes and understand that we have to balance our lives a little bit as well. So how long do you expect to stay in Vietnam?

Ian Bromage: My assignment is for two years, so it is a very good, long period. I’ve been here for three months so far. I think that two years does allo0w you to develop those relationships and develop trust with people. And as some things take a lot longer you have that time and space that makes you able to put processes and procedures in place and watch those take shape, which you can’t do in a short consultancy where you are just coming in to fix a particular problem.

Pacific-Tier: have you found your calling now, or do you find yourself slipping back into the corporate world at any time in the future?

Ian Bromage: I would like to continue to work in the developing (nation) field. I think there are aspects of the corporate world that I miss, but I think I could find those in the development arena as well. So I don’t see myself going back into the private sector in Western Europe.

Pacific-Tier: It’s a very big world. Mongolia and Vietnam are only two countries. With your experience there’s probably a lot of other places you can go. Will you continue to work with organizations such as the Volunteer Services Overseas, or do you see doing this as a commercial enterprise? What do you see in the future, or are you just living day-to-day now?

Ian Bromage: I would like to do a mix of work, I think, in the future. I would certainly like to continue work with NGOs. I would certainly like to work at, what is termed the grass-roots level. But I would also like to get involved with policy work, and other aspect of work with governments and things. So I’d quite like to develop a range of skills, and have a mix of opportunities to be able to move up and down at different levels and move across in different regions or geographic areas.

But we’ll see. Who knows what the future holds!

Pacific-Tier: We normally talk about entrepreneurship in this series. Working with a lot of young people today in Vietnam, and formerly ion Mongolia, do you have any advice for any UK, or American, or Vietnamese, or any other developing countries where young people are jumping into the market. Do you have any advice for them as entrepreneurs?

Ian Bromage: Well I think the key thing is to always look at fresh approaches to come up with new ideas. And that’s not just in the technical field in terms of inventions and things. It’s to look at new approaches to social problems, look at new techniques, look beyond your world, look at the way other people do things. Try to travel and experience other cultures.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – I think that’s very key. Everybody makes mistakes. You need to learn from them, and move on. So I think that’s a very important skill for young people to have. Not to be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way they expect them to.

Pacific-Tier: I would agree. I think that taking the risk and moving ahead is probably the best training somebody can get. You can’t pay for the training you get when you make an error, or if you have a failure in our plan, it’s the best training you can get.

Any other final worlds for people who may be listening to you from Hanoi?

Ian Bromage: Well if they are listening from Hanoi, I am thoroughly enjoying my stay here. I think it’s a great place, it’s an exciting place, it’s a fast moving place, I’m really enjoying it and I am looking forward to spending the next couple years here.

If anybody wants to come and visit Hanoi, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Pacific-Tier: Well thank you very much, and I sincerely hope that someday you will be able to take the time and do a few guest blogs for us.

You can listen to the entire audio interview at Pacific Tier

Understanding Global Carrier Ethernet with Mark Fishburn at CENX

I first met Mark Fishburn at the Convergence Technology Council (CTC) in Calabasas, California. Mark was a director in the organization, and had very strong ideas about networking and Ethernet. Going beyond the standard role we all play at professional networking venues, he distinguished himself from the group by presenting a passion for teaching others, and presenting his ideas in language nearly anybody could easily understand. Mark was always easy to find at CTC meetings, as he was the center of the largest groups of people who wanted to hear what he had to say.

Mark is a true innovator, and generates a lot of inspiration among CTC members with his visions and thought leadership in a variety of technology and business-related topics. I met Mark in Tarzana, California, to learn more about his vision related to Carrier Ethernet, as well as to gather some advice for entrepreneurs.

Pacific-Tier: Mark, tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to the San Fernando Valley, and what do you do?

Mark Fishburn CENXMark Fishburn: I worked at US companies for many years when I was in London, and one day I said I could fix a (problem) in the US headquarters, and they said “OK.” So I came across as a corporate officer in a company called Retix. I worked with them for a while, and then started my own company.

So that was my business, a software company, and then back into data communications, and worked for a company called NetCom Systems, which then became a company called Spirent.

Pacific-Tier: You’ve been involved with the Metro Ethernet Forum for quite some time. What interested you about the MEF?

Mark Fishburn: Well it actually goes back some time to my interest in Ethernet, and the world of Ethernet from the very early days. in 1982 I installed my first Ethernet system while working for Xerox, and that was in Paris. it was one of the very first Ethernet installations.

And as a result of that I gathered a great interest in Ethernet. In the old times, working for an Ethernet test-equipment company, we put out on e of the first fiber Ethernet products, and a few years later one of the first copper Gigabit Ethernet products.

And so it went on. I was intimately involved as chairman with the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, and the Gigabit Ethernet Alliance before that. It became apparent this was all triggered by the definition of fiber Ethernet. It really reached out beyond the boundaries of local area networks to the metro network.

That really paved the way for Ethernet services to be provided by service providers, and not just live inside the LAN. That was really the initial foundation of the Metro Ethernet Forum/MEF.

It was all about, really advancing the adoption of optical-based fiber Ethernet.

Pacific-Tier: I guess that brings us up to your current venture, which is CENX. Can you tell us anything about CENX?

Mark Fishburn: Sure, let me just give you a bit of background, because it is all really very connected.

In the substantiation of the MEF it became clear there were many different technologies that were or could be connected together using the Ethernet as a ghost in the machine.

And thus were born Ethernet services. And in 2004 carrier Ethernet was created and defined by the MEF by providing ubiquitous services worldwide independent of the service providers providing them, and also the equipment it is connected on.

And that really led to development of the need to have global connections between the service providers who are providing these Ethernet carrier services.

Although I say that in a sentence, it actually took about eight years to transpire and it led to a business that in 2009 has become about a $20 million global services revenue.

At this point in time, as these networks have grown, there is a requirement to connect more of them together in a way which preserves the differentiation of the service providers and creates a global (Ethernet) interconnectivity.

That really led to the formation of our company CENX (Carrier Ethernet Neutral Exchange) which was established to created, effectively a service-level interconnect between the service providers worldwide, and negate the enormous cost and pain in making those connections possible.

Pacific-Tier: Excellent. It’s kind of a sketchy economic environment, a tough time for businesses. What drove you to start a new business in this tough economy?

Mark Fishburn: Well, there are some areas that grow in spite of the economic downturn. The areas that grow are those that potentially save cost, or those that are pushing the envelope and generating more revenue.

Carrier Ethernet is such an animal. It (the industry) grew somewhere around 33% last year in America alone. So while the economy is growing people look for significantly more economic ways to effectively use the same old applications, while paving the way for new applications data driving mobile technology.

So, in this economy to do that was both a natural, and almost necessary step to advance this industry. And as such it was pretty natural for those people who realize this to be attracted to our company, to invest in it, and to meet that need.

Just like anything else, if you have a sufficiently difficult problem, and there is a need to solve it, it save money, and helps make money for people, and makes their job easier, then it’s a very compelling case.

Pacific-Tier: You’ve been a director with the Convergence Technology Council of California/CTC here in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles) providing thought leadership and help to a lot of people who are members. What advice do you have for people who may be having trouble with their jobs, been laid off, or are young graduates getting ready to enter the workforce – is there hope for entrepreneurs and those getting ready to jump into the technology industry?

Mark Fishburn: I would say absolutely. I think this is a great time to start a new venture. If you look at every great new venture, this has been repeated many times. In all the great companies that were founded – they weren’t founded when the economy was good, they were founded when there were significant problems that gave people an opportunity to really look at the idea that necessity is the mother of invention.

It’s like anything else, there are tremendous opportunities, still driven by technology, or different social climates driving the way people communicate now, rather than the way they did before. So within technology is really an unlimited opportunity for people to look at an issue, or to realize their dream and go for it.

Pacific-Tier: Young people today, they have technology diffused into their education, and into their childhood and youth at a rate that we never had in our middle-aged years. How do you feel about the youth today? Are they going to be able to take this thing that we’ve built and make it better?

Mark Fishburn: I kind of look at it a little differently. I think in a way they are driving it. Because if you look at somebody who is multi-tasking, if you look at the corporate world of maybe a couple years ago, well when you were at work you were at work. When you went home you played.

It’s become so blurred that the distinction between work, collecting information, entertainment, and communications, it is going to happen in a way that is connected 24 hours, and I think that young people today are living in the world of communications – in a way that they communicate with each other, in a way they focus, in a way that they are constantly multi-tasking and moving towards whatever is the next and most convenient way to gather.

So I believe that the youth of today is programmed into this multi-processing environment that they have, and that it’s way (young) people operate, doing multiple things at the same time, is the way of the future, and I believe that people who have been brought up in the world with mobile technology and communications, texting and talking, thinking and playing – all of those at the same time. I think all of those things are the wave of the future.

I think entrepreneurs who connect to that will do well.

Pacific-Tier: That’s very encouring. Thank you today for your counsel, great advice, stories, and great talk!

Mark Fishburn: Sure – can I add one more thing?

Pacific-Tier: Of course!

Mark Fishburn: I would say that one of the things that really led me to doing this was the realization that a lot of people would fear to go into something new like this, or to start a new job. But the alternative is unpalatable. Surviving until you die is no way forward. And I believe that if you are passionate about something that you really have nothing to lose by trying it out.

If you don’t do that, you might regret it forever. So I would say, just go for it.

You can contact Mark at mark@cenx.com

Mark Fishburn, Vice President of Marketing, has more than 35 years experience in marketing, sales, product marketing, systems engineering, and management in the computer and communications industries.
He has been closely associated with Ethernet for most of his career, installing his first system in 1982 while at Xerox, co-authors of the initial Ethernet specification. Industry roles include Chairman of the Board, Metro Ethernet Forum, Chairman of the Board of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, and board member of the Gigabit Ethernet alliance and he has been instrumental of the creation of the MEF’s Carrier Ethernet and Global Interconnect strategies.
Prior to joining CENX Mr. Fishburn was President of strategic marketing company MarketWord, in the Carrier Ethernet market. He spent 10 years as VP Technical Strategy and VP Marketing for network test company Spirent Communications, and UK Managing Director and officer for Retix. He won more than 20 industry awards and studied BSc. Special Mathematics at University of London.

Check out the entire Pacific-Tier Communications Innovators and Entrepreneur Series

A Communications Revolution is Happening – Will your business survive?

NOTE: Pacific-Tier Communications invites guest bloggers to provide articles that would be of interest, and benefit to our readers. This week we are happy to introduce Mr. Andy Slater, CMO, Presence Networks.

‘‘The ‘Command and Control’ management style enjoyed by many CEOs in the past has gone. Today teamwork and collaboration are the norm. Leadership the accepted management style, people orientated collaboration the culture, people centric technology the facilitator.’’

Andy Slater from Presence NetworksWe stand at a transition point in business. As the global economy starts to work its way out of recession CEO’s and management teams around the world are beginning to plan for growth. But they won’t do that by simply taking back into their businesses the bottom line costs they just spent 18 painful months getting rid of. The enlightened are looking for a new ways of working, how to unlock the people power in their organization in a secure and focused manner, to accelerate speed of decision making, reduce costs, and drive productivity.

Technology has been at the centre of social and industrial change since the printing press. Through history there have been transition points. The invention of the flying shuttle by John Kay heralded the start of the industrial revolution. The spread of democracy around the world can be traced to the invention of the telephone by Graham Bell and its adoption around the world. Suddenly totalitarian states could no longer constrain the flow of people’s ideas, information, and aspirations.

More recently mobile devices and the internet has accelerated the flow of information with images and video, so now international public opinion can be formed and galvanized by what were once isolated events. The video of student Neda Agha-Soltan’s shooting in Iran caught on a mobile phone started an outcry around the world which is still vocal today.

Social networking has become the norm for many who ‘tweet’ their way through the day sharing thoughts on everything, from the mildly interesting to the creative. The need to communicate is infectious and has a profound effect on the way we live – and work. Given a common cause, people power is unstoppable.

The ability of these new people networks has been recognized by business where the more enlightened maintain Online Brand protection programmes, write blogs, tweet, and endeavour to instigate viral campaigns to manipulate networks to their own advantage.

But is this relevant to business ?

A ‘company’ is called that simply because it is made up of people. How many companies say that their most valuable asset is their people? How true it is. Try running a railway without drivers or signal men, or running software development without programmers. People matter and leading managers recognize what’s happening in social networking can be harnessed to drive their businesses – people power, or business collaboration. Indeed, some would say it can’t be stopped – adapt or die.

The nature and culture of management in business has changed already. The ‘Command and Control’ management style enjoyed by many CEOs in the past has gone. Today teamwork and collaboration are the norm. Leadership the accepted management style, people orientated collaboration the culture, people centric technology the facilitator.

IT has to step up to this challenge to enable these new strategies – only if it can deliver business solutions, not just fancy names for the same technology, will it meet the true business need. Collaboration in the business environment is recognised as being one of the key tools CEO’s are looking at to drive productivity for the next decade – particularly if it can be delivered without complexity or capital investment.

To make the successful transition their vision has to be converted into a strategy. A strategy that addresses the three pillars of change – Culture, Technology and Process.

You can’t identify at the start of a shift in business culture all the business aspects that will be impacted, but you can describe the vision; a culture where information travels to the right people, any time, in any place, on any device. Where virtual teams form rapidly to solve business problems then dissolve just as quickly, without management intervention. No more ‘I sent an e-mail’ excuses but effective communication between empowered people.

The process of creating this culture needs to be led by a management that believes and demonstrates it through the way they act and how they communicate. The benefits are business processes that will be changed, new ones invented, and many scrapped. This is long term business development, a journey, not a light-switch change – but a revolution when looked back on from the future.

The technology to achieve this has to be invisible. People centric technology is intuitive, adopted because it engages its users, inspires and opens up new horizons. You know its right when your people can’t function without it.

Cloud Computing, Software-as-a-Service, and Unified Communications are all technical developments which alone do not deliver cultural change (except maybe in the IT department). These will be part of the solution, but are not the ‘end game’.

The application that runs in the world of the users, that gives them a real-time window on their business world, enables them to interact with people based on their availability, skills, interests and knowledge in a secure way, will be the deliverer of cultural change. This will be the application that grows productivity for businesses, for the next decade.

Andy Slater

You can contact Andy at andy.slater@pnglobal.net or visit Presence Network’s website at http://www.presence-networks.net

Navigating the Telecom Supply Chain with Matt Hiles at Mosaic Networx

I first met Matt Hiles while he was director of business development with Looking Glass Networks in Los Angeles. As a customer looking for telecom services, navigating the providers, technologies, and deal structures can be confusing. Matt took the time to explain all aspects of the business, cost structures, and how he would get us a great deal – while still making money for his company. Matt stood out alone from a world of “wheeling and dealing” telecom sales people, unique in providing the customer a level of confidence they were getting the best product, for the best price, with the best service.

Pacific-Tier: Today we have Matt Hiles, managing partner with Mosaic Networx. Hello Matt! So tell us a little about yourself, how did you get into this business?

Matt Hiles: I started in telecommunications right out of college, and I’ve been in the business, in one form or another, since – which is about 20 years. I’ve been in a variety of telecommunications, voice, and service providers. I’ve also spent a period of time in the data center side of the industry as well.

Pacific-Tier: now you are with Mosaic Networx. Can you give a little background on Mosaic. What are you, what do you do, and what type of business problems do you solve?

Matt Hiles: Mosaic Networx is a carrier neutral, data services provider. We provide a supply chain management service primarily for enterprise companies, but secondarily to wholesale providers and telecommunications providers. From a supply chain management perspective we provide a value add in three functional areas which are pricing, procurement, and provisioning.

What we’ve found is that, in the enterprise space, there is a lack, or need in one of those areas. Typically all of those areas. Where enterprise decision-makers and IT managers don’t have the depth and breadth of knowledge of the telecommunications providers and options that are available.

So we price them, then procure them, provision them, and then manage them ongoing on the back end.

Pacific-Tier: Well, that’s pretty cool. So who is your market, who would be your customer?

Matt Hiles: Our customers are small, medium, and we even have several Fortune 500 companies. We have a strong vertical in the financial services market. Specifically we work with the low-latency, high frequency trading guys. We’ve also worked with public wholesale companies who may not have the buying power we have, so we add some pricing value for those types.

Pacific-Tier: I’ve noticed you are based in Long Beach, California. Other people in your company are scattered around the United States, with diverse locations for your primary management team – does that provide you any challenges?

Matt Hiles: I imagine it provides some challenge, although It would be hard to quantify them. We haven’t really seen them. I think where we’ve done an outstanding job in is finding the right people.

We have 18 personnel in the functional areas in the company, whether its finance or operations, or on the sales side as well. So the distributed environment that we have seems to work out just fine.

Would we have a little bit more camaraderie in a common office? Probably.

Pacific-Tier: So it’s rather tough economic time right now. We’ve had kind of a sketchy run over the last year. What motivated you to start up a company in the last year or so and how do you feel about being an entrepreneur in a tough economic environment?

Matt Hiles: So, I suppose that timings everything, right? We didn’t know we would start a company in a tough economic period. But, the economy notwithstanding , I think there is always business. And for innovative entrepreneurs who can go out and create value for customers, provide them an outstanding customer experience, then good or bad times I think you can be successful.

Pacific-Tier: So what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs, graduates who are looking at a tough economy, what advice do you have for other budding visionaries and entrepreneurs?

Matt Hiles: I think you have to have an expertise. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in my mind to venture into an area as an entrepreneur where you don’t have years of background and can consider yourself a subject-matter expert. I think that is (not being a subject-matter expert) a recipe for disappointment.

But somebody who has spent their time in a corporate environment, learning an area, and then able to translate that into, you know, a startup environment, then I’d encourage them to be entrepreneurs, and entrepreneur owners.

Pacific-Tier: That’s great advice. Give a little pitch for you company. Where do we find you?

Matt Hiles: You can find our company at Mosaic Networx, and the domain is mosaicnetworx.com . if you would like to reach us we’d be happy to hear from you.

Pacific-Tier: Thank you very much for the time!

Matt Hiles is Managing Partner and Executive Vice President of Mosaic NetworX, LLC.  Prior to joining Mosaic NetworX, LLC in early 2008, Mr. Hiles was the Director of Business Development at Looking Glass Networks responsible for both Enterprise and Wholesale revenues.  He was also instrumental in the creation and development of asset-based, network infrastructure projects around the country.  Mr. Hiles has an established record of success within the telecommunications and data center industries spanning nearly 20 years.  During his career, he has held executive and leadership positions at Allnet Communications, MFS, WorldCom, Level 3, and DCI Technology Holdings.Matt attended Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, where he earned an ALB degree in Government – US/Soviet Relations.

Interview with Mike Lagunowitsch, Presence Networks, Hong Kong

It was a clear, very beautiful morning in Sydney. Mike brought the Pitts biplane up to about 4,500ft, and you could literally reach out and touch the mountains from the open cockpit and passenger seat. I came close to better appreciating the words of the classic poem that is understood by pilots, and very few others;

Mike Lagunowitsch, the pilot, a friend, and former colleague at Sprint Australia and Sprint China, is one of the few people I know who can really step away from the job, and escape into complete indulgence in life. Then almost like flipping a switch he returns to being one of the most enthusiastic, aggressive visionairies in the telecommunications industry.

Savageau: Mike, what are you doing these days? Been a long time since we had a chance to catch up.

Mike: I live in Hong Kong and am building Presence Networks in Asia Pacific/India. We provide presence based, secure IM Unified Comms delivered as SaaS for telecommunications carriers and large enterprises.

Savageau: What attracted you into technology and the telecom business?

Mike: At University in the ‘80s I did an Industrial Training year, and was subsequently hired by an early email and network access provider. I was assigned to a network services team, building and troubleshooting X.25 packet switching networks. It was a real apprenticeship in hierarchical peering protocols and the telecoms business. Subsequently I did similar job for a US carrier that operated in the global market. These foundations still serve me well. I also developed relationships that I have kept and which have been incredibly important in my career.

Savageau: What makes technology-related industry more interesting than other careers?

Mike: For me it’s the speed of acquisition, application of knowledge, and the creativity that’s enabled. It’s just unprecedented. And it will only get faster and more innovative. The implications are mind blowing.

Savageau: What are some of your most memorable projects?

Mike: I was based in Jilin province China once for a project where we had to install some very sophisticated Class IV laser DWD Muxes. The venue was very near the North Korean border. Problem was that the data centre was in a remote place several miles from the closest train station. It was February, about nine feet of snow, and a complete mess everywhere. Roads were absolutely unusable by trucks.

To solve our transportation and logistics problem we hired a wooden cart pulled by a massive hairy yak. This modern transportation system ultimately hauled the crated mux to our customer’s site. A few days later after sorting out grounding, power stability and replacing broken windows, we actually got it up and running. Amazing. It was a wonderful international joint effort between Chinese, US and Canadian engineers, with me as the token Brit – all pulling together to get the job done. A real can-do team effort. Lots of smiles and “gwangshi building” beers were consumed after that job.

I also worked with a team of Russian engineers in Moscow. I was amazed that they had laid and lit fibre in the sewers across the city. The network was huge. Later when in Sydney, Australia we were building a dark fibre network in the CBD but couldn’t find the right skills in the local market. So I flew down some of the team of Russian engineers to get the job done. They did the job in half the planned time. They had something to prove, and their level of professional pride and work ethic was incredible. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting their team manager again. He was passing through Hong Kong this past January, and of course meeting him and catching up was really nice for me. We hadn’t seen each other for ten years but had got back in touch via the social networking tool LinkedIn over the last year.

Savageau: You are British, but have chosen to live your life in the international community – any particular reason why?

Mike: Actually I carry dual nationality & passports – British by birth and Australian by choice. I grew up in the UK, but my father was from what is now Belarus. From an early age I was encouraged that the “world was my oyster” to “stand on my own two feet” and “go explore”. I have had some wonderful cultural experiences being in the international telecoms industry. These have helped me understand how to work with other cultures and recognize the limitations of nationalistic and protectionist attitudes. It’s important never to forget your roots and culture of course, but in the current world we live in fostering tolerance and having the ability to cross culturally collaborate is critical. It’s also fun and I love the variety of cuisines.

Savageau: What professional goals are still out there for you to achieve?

Mike: I would love to combine my interests in technology and aviation.

I think we are at the tip of the iceberg with the current generation of computing and service technologies. Ironically I think the current global economic climate will accelerate the rate of technological innovation that drive efficiencies in how we collaborate, force the development of new business models and help eradicate mindless bureaucracy. I so want to be a part of this change.

Savageau: Any emerging technologies or applications that really excite you?

Mike: I’ve been curious about Artificial Intelligence since University days. With today’s early collaborative technologies, increases in computational and storage performance, increasingly sophisticated search engines, and with a permanently wired generational mindset starting to enter the labour pool the opportunities to creatively engage this somewhat fringe technology are very exciting. Of course AI is no match for natural stupidity but maybe the latter can serve as inspiration.

Savageau: Do you have suggestions for young engineers who are looking not only for a great career, but also the chance to bring excitement into their jobs?

Yeah. Don’t be afraid to take risks, especially now. Recognize the limitations of material things and don’t go chase a job for the sake of money. Identify and play to your strengths. Be creative and apply your skills to help solve the really critical issues of today; disease, population growth, extinction of species – animal and plant, government’s and corporation’s exploitation of finite natural resources. Despite the current military conflicts and economic challenges these are the BIG issues of today the ones that will deliver truly exciting returns. Technology alone is not the answer but it can be a critical enabler for rapid positive change that will benefit everyone in society.

Savageau: Final message to the tech community in California?

Mike: Continue to harness technology to create and innovate in all areas. Remain the world leader in these areas. Thwart senseless bureaucracy at all levels. Openly collaborate with all cultures, learn from them to develop technologies/services that benefit everyone. The money will follow.

===

I’ve known Mike for just about 17 years. We’ve walked the streets of Beijing, Sydney, London, HongKong, Tokyo, and Washington DC together, talking about technology, culture, and visions of the future. Hong Kong is lucky to have him. I look forward to getting him to Long Beach some day, and having the chance to catch up on all topics in tech and life.

And he does an awesome reverse negative “G”stall in the Pitts at 10,000 feet.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Chris Ueland, President of NetDNA

Pacific-Tier Communications is pleased to present our series highlighting and introducing entrepreneurs providing thought leadership and innovative ideas in technology, communications, and environment-related industries.

Pacific-Tier met up with Chris Ueland at his offices in Studio City, California

Pacific-Tier: Chris, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you come from?

Chris Ueland: Sure, absolutely. I am a New York native, and I moved to LA when I was 18. I started on the Internet with an open source project called ML.ORG, when I was a young teenager, and that got me hooked into the Internet.

I started working from my parent’s house on nights and weekends on this open source project, and started ICom.Com, which was funded by my former partner.

Pacific-Tier: Excellent. Now you’re working with NetDNA LLC. Tell us a little about NetDNA LLC, and what you do?

Chris Ueland: NetDNA is a pretty cool company. We’re doing content delivery, and we have 10 data centers around the world, and we are focusing on speeding up content to end users.

Pacific-Tier: Who would be your customer? What kind of company would come to NetDNA?

Chris Ueland: Primarily the Alexa top 5000 sites. Right now our customers are primarily advertising and video sites. We are looking to also get into full site acceleration for some of these large web sites.

Pacific-Tier: And what does that mean? What does full-site acceleration mean?

Chris Ueland: We’re constantly looking for any kind of way to speed up a website. And the latest cutting edge stuff to deliver that website as quickly as possible to the end user.

Pacific-Tier: So you are there to try to make the end-user experience better, as well as facilitate the product your customers have?

Chris Ueland: Absolutely. And making it as easy as possible on our customers, where there’s not a whole lot of infrastructure changes on their end.

Pacific-Tier: So you’ve kind of a serial entrepreneur your whole life. You’ve started several companies, gone on to other projects – what drives you to be an entrepreneur?

Chris Ueland: I think it’s just in my DNA. I’m always looking for ways to do things that are outside the beaten path.

Pacific-Tier: That’s pretty exciting. Is it because the large companies don’t offer you the challenge, or is it because you just have things you want to do that the large companies won’t support?

Chris Ueland: I think it’s the fact that as an entrepreneur you can create your own structure. And you can develop things that work really well with your personality. For me, I really enjoy building things, and the companies that I create allow me to harness those talents and just build things all day. Which I love!

Pacific-Tier: The economy has been kind of sketchy lately, and you have a lot of young guys graduating from university, and thinking about going into the work force, and a lot of guys who are thinking about starting their own companies. What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur or graduate who is getting ready to hit the street?

Chris Ueland: Yeah, the first piece of advice is to start as early as possible. You are going to make a lot of mistakes. Get in there and get your hands dirty.

The second (piece of advice) is to develop a real skill set, where you can take that skill set and bring to anybody, anywhere in the world, and provide value for them.

The third is really to build something. Don’t just shuffle things around, genuinely build something big. I think that is really going to fix and help the economy.

Pacific-Tier: And where do you go to from here?

Chris Ueland: We’re looking at really cutting edge stuff to accelerate web sites and to lower latency and deliver the best possible consumer experience.

Pacific-Tier: Give yourself a plug for NetDNA, how do they find you on the web?

Chris Ueland: www.netdna.com

Pacific-Tier: Any final words for the technology community?

Chris Ueland: Get out there guys and build stuff. That’s what’s going to get us out of this rut that we’re in. I really look at the telecom guys and entrepreneurs as the answer to creating things, and continuing to build this country up.

Pacific-Tier: Great advice – thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today.

Chris Ueland: Thank you John!

You can listen to the entire audio interview at Pacific Tier

An innovator and an activist, Chris approaches each of his pursuits by asking the question, “how can we help people?” His years as President of Globat LLC, a company he co-founded with friend and business partner Ben Neumann, helped the company net numerous awards and recognitions based on the quality of service the company provided to nearly 100,000 customers around the world. As the Vice President of the Greater Valley Glen Council in the City of Los Angeles, Chris has also worked hard to improve the quality of life for people in the area he represents. Mr. Ueland has enjoyed leadership and ownership roles in successful companies such as Globat LLC, Icom.com, iBoost.com, and DefyingGravity LLC, many of which were ultimately acquired by other companies.

www.netdna.com

Evaluating San Diego’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

How attractive is San Diego as a place to start a company compared with the Silicon Valley? Santa Barbara? Los Angeles?

On Thursday evening the “Sweat Equity” series of seminars sponsored by San Diego’s Software Industry Council (SDSIC) brought together a distinguished panel with a venture capitalist and successful entrepreneurs answering questions, drilling into their experiences, as well as exploring perceptions they’ve developed over several years doing business in San Diego. More than 50 interested attendees with the hope and aspiration of either starting their own company, or breaking away from the corporate world with a startup, provided an enthusiastic audience to support the discussion and Q&A.

Panel members included:

  • James Adams, Moderator, Fortress Secure Payments
  • Russ Mann, Entrepreneur, Covario
  • Ted Alexander, Venture Capital, Mission Ventures
  • Allen Drennan, Entrepreneur, WiredRed

The panel tried to answer the question, through their experience, of whether or not San Diego is a good place to start a business. Starting with the question “How start up friendly is San Diego?” the panel thought the city rates a “good.” The universities around San Diego are graduating high quality workers, with a small community spirit nurturing fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

However the panel agreed that San Diego has shortfalls in the amount of investment money available less than in the Silicon Valley. Ted (the VC) cited that “last year there was around $7~10 billion in venture capital committed in the Silicon Valley vs. $1~2 billion in Southern California.” However he also added that “if you are a talented individual you can overcome the challenges.”

On the question “Do San Diego-based legal firms provide adequate support for small companies?” the panelists were all generally positive. Russ Mann gives the San Diego legal community “two thumbs up,” but Allen Drennan cautioned that his only bad experiences with San Diego law offices were when he tried to save money with cheaper representation that his company ultimately suffered.

Ted reinforced the need for good legal representation, and closed the topic by adding “San Diego legal firms are busy, but if you are willing to pay they are as good as any in the country.”

Attracting Outside Talent to San Diego

The panel tackled the question “What is the quality of CTO-level game-changers in the San Diego area?” The general consensus of the panel and attendees was that San Diego lacks high powered CTOs, and start up companies generally must go out of the area to attract the talent they need to provide the vision and technical leadership need to get a tech-sector start up off the ground.

“I am much more bullish on CEOs than on CTOs (in the San Diego area)” pointed out Russ. “Risk-taking CTOs do not like Southern California and San Diego, preferring the east coast and Silicon Valley.”

The panel discussed the idea of industry clusters. Those grouping of similar companies that normally follow one successful company in a location, and highly qualified engineers and leaders “gravitate” towards the clusters. Unfortunately San Diego does not have any strong industry clusters at the level of an El Segundo (military/industrial), Silicon Valley, Boston, or similar clusters. This makes some highly qualified people somewhat reluctant to take the risk of moving to San Diego.

Those who do find San Diego a good area to work are at a point in their life where they are interested in a better lifestyle, and the potential of a higher quality of life (as possible in Southern California).

The same opinion passed through into the question of availability skilled technical developers, where the opinion of the panel was low, concerned with both local talent, as well as difficulty attracting high quality developers to the area.

Funding SD Startups

San Diego does not appear to be friendly for funding startup companies. Ted’s company, Mission Ventures, may be the only company that is located in, and focused on the San Diego market. Ted stated “it is very difficult to build a large company in San Diego.” He continued “the reality is not every startup should get VC funding, and angels may give you a better deal or solution.”

The low confidence in getting funding in San Diego continued into 2010, with Allen quoting a San Diego Business Journal article which indicated “there is very little investment money expected in San Diego” over the next year. All members of the panel added stories about VCs and companies they know who are aggressively going after potential investments in other parts of the country, with an emphasis on Silicon Valley – but not in San Diego.

Ted tried to lift the spirit of the panel by ending the topic with “of course the right idea will always find a way to get funded.”

Comparing San Diego with other California Cities

Having visited several areas in California over the past couple of years, including San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and the Silicon Valley, the differences are very clear. Enthusiasm and aggressive threshold for innovation is most visible in Northern California. Returning to the idea of clustering, it is easy to meet clusters of innovators and visionaries by simply going to a “cluster watering hole” (bar) near the tech community, such as the “Fault Line” in Santa Clara. The people you meet are fearless, unconcerned with the economy or other external factors, and just want to talk about their ideas.

Santa Barbara has a very enthusiastic community, but tend to be more interested in the business side of their future rather than working out strategies on how their ideas could be realized, and find a way to change the world.

As a great place to live, it is impossible to beat Southern California. As a place to build a company, the Silicon Valley offers a pool of talent, better access to funding, well-defined technology clusters, and a buzz of excitement that is not easily located in other locations. On a personal note, I have been searching for the buzz in the OC, San Diego, Long Beach, and other areas of LA, but have to finally admit the buzz is much stronger in Northern California.

We can change that, but the process requires a major shift in the local city governments, financial community, and aging business leadership to re-engineer Southern California as a valid competitor to the Silicon Valley. With notable exceptions such as Qualcomm, Boeing, Northrup, and some bio-tech leaders, it is hard to argue the percentages.

Los Angeles and Southern California provide a great environment for manufacturing, logistics, entertainment, and other operations-oriented industries. But for today, the burden is on the south to provide an environment that will spawn the next Google, Cisco, HP, National Semiconductor, or Apple.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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