Category Archives: entrepreneurship

Innovation Starvation

Neal Stephenson’s take on how the Internet is starving innovation.  His notion is that isolation spurs creativity: if there is no one to tell you that something cannot be done or that it has been done before, them perhaps you are going to go ahead and do it anyway and do it extremely well.

He ties up this lack of creativity with high risk aversion in the corporate sphere.

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Discount Smart Phones …

The market for smart phones is definitely in a transitional phase,” Lars-Christian Weisswange, a vice president at Huawei’s Western European division, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The company is betting that consumers will aim for affordable rather than luxury-brand smart phones.

I think Huawei may be onto something.  They’re staking money on the commodity life cycle.  According to this cycle the commodity moves from luxury good status to mass market to necessity through demand factors and scale effects on the supply side.  Other commodities that have succumbed to this cycle include PCs, air travel and (unsmart) mobile phones.

More from the original article, which focuses on cheap smart phones as game-changers in the African market.


Arundhati Roy makes sense (for once)

For all her bleeding heart liberalism and idealism, one cannot doubt her intelligence.  She’s written a cogent and damning critique of Anna Hazare and his Lokpal movement.

First, the Lokpal sturm und drang is analogous to the Maoist insurgency, in that both seek the overthrow or severe curtailment of the Indian state. But,

One [is] working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other [is working] from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people.

Second, althought he professes himself to be Gandhian, there is nothing Gandhian about his demands.

Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy … with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister … down to the lowest government official.

Third, he does not really seem to be concerned about the travails and tribulations of the dispossessed masses he claims to champion.

Oddly enough we’ve heard him say nothing about … the farmer’s suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer’s agitations or the blight of SEZs.

Fourth, we seem to have forgotten about his connection with and admiration for the Hindu right wing.

He does however support Raj Thackeray’s Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the ‘development model’ of Gujarat’s Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims.

And finally, and perhaps most damning of all, where is all the money for his movement coming from?  It seems that Indian and foreign corporates have been very generous.

The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and the Lehman Brothers. … Among contributors … there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees.

But why?  To find out, you can read the original piece in The Hindu.  To give you an inkling, it has to do with the corporate takeover of the Indian state.


The Economics of Data Centres

From the Babbage blog at The Economist:

“the Prineville plant is a leading exponent of a new style of data-centre management. It does away with expensive air-conditioning “chillers”. Instead, air is brought in from outside. For this approach to work, however, the desert is key. For much of the year outside air is actually cool enough to keep the servers from overheating. At the lowest temperatures, just the gentlest of breezes needs to be brought inside at all. And, this being the desert, nights are chilly irrespective of the season, so even in the summer additional cooling is only needed during the hottest times of day.This is provided through a “swamp cooler”. A fine mist of water, much like artificial fog, is sprayed in the direction of the air flow. Heat is leached from the air by the water as it evaporates, and the cooled air passes through the servers.”

These swamp coolers sound like a high tech version of those noisy, but divinely comfortable air coolers used in Delhi in the summer.


The Biz behind the Music Biz

The music business (like any business) finds its origins at that muddied intersection of organized crime, hedonism and desperation.

P. Lauterbach’s “The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll” looks like a particularly interesting read.  An excerpt:

“Though Ferguson accrued capital breaking the law, he was basically a businessman, and a responsible one: “He collected black dollars in underworld trade and gave back to the community at large, carving economic independence out for himself and employing black locals.””

Read more here.