Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

What Investors Expect in Milestones

By Eleanor Haas

A company’s milestones are turning points in a company’s development that mark stages of growth and wash out a measure of the risk of failure.  Investor criteria for these are excellent metrics for shareholder value.  Investors think about six major milestones for an emerging  B-to-B technology company –  they look for this road map:

  1. Product Market Fit

You know it’s happening when your non- or little-paying beta customers stay with you and tell their colleagues about you. Retention above 90 percent.  High word-of-mouth growth.  It’s proof you’ve met a need – at least for the moment – but you’re far from home free.  You can lose product market fit at any time.  Customers discover alternatives you had overlooked, your performance slips or something new and better pops up – and you’re back to Square 1.

  1. Paying Customers

Once you get, say, five customers to make the leap from free or token payment to paid, you know you’ve started creating value for your business as well as your customers.  You won’t have much market penetration, and that’s your next goal.  If you could get five, you can get 50!  Sell-sell-sell!

  1. Statistical Viability

The next bottom-up goal is sufficient recurring revenue to achieve something like an annual run rate of $1 million – i.e., $83,000 per month.  For this, you’ll need solid pricing and market segment data to achieve a reasonably accurate estimate of market size – plus the marketing, sales, customer support and technology to make it happen.

What’s the return per customer?  How many customers do you need per month?  Per day?  Are there enough customers in your segment for you to land that many?  Do you have a market segment than can support your pricing?  No?  Then, what segment should you target?  What would it take to hit the run rate in a year?

  1. Cash Flow Positive

When:  12-18 months from startup for a technology business

Net income is still negative but your cash balance seems to keep pace with expenses.  This is a major coup – proof of economic viability and an investor requirement for further investment.  It’s a precarious time because the balance shifts dynamically.  You have to keep selling, closing deals making deposits, with just enough of a cash cushion for protection when the balance shifts downward.  Profitability still lies in the future

  1. Capital-Efficient Growth

Once you’re generating $3 million to $6 million in revenue and see that you can sustain positive cash flow, you know you’ve reached capital efficiency.  Investors like this a lot because they can expect you to generate $1 million in recurring revenue for every $1 million they invest.  Of course, your growth still depends on outside capital.

You may well  choose to stay at this stage for a long time – selling equity for cash in order to grow aggressively In a competitive market, you could do this through $100 million in revenue or even more.

  1. Profitable

When: typically, 3-5 years from startup for a growth business

Nirvana!  Net income at long last is positive.  Cash balance keeps growing.  Revenue from existing clients is sufficient to maintain it.  The net income is from new business, and it frees you from needing either investment or loans.  Right on!

 

What Investors Want to Know

Everyone seems to have a different idea about how to introduce a business to investors.  Scientists want to deliver full detail about the science as well as their products   Most others just want to describe their products in some detail.  But what is it investors want?

We asked three investors at a recent meeting about life sciences companies, and they made clear that they’re evaluating investment value – not the product, not the business, the investment potential.  Here’s what they said:

Investor No. 1:

I want to know five things about a new company:

  1. What is the novel invention?  What’s different?
  2. What is the need for this?
  3. What is the rationale why your technology will work for this purpose?
  4. What is the regulatory pathway?
  5. What’s the ask amount and what is the next value inflection point?

Note:  The same investor also asked for the net income/loss figure instead of EBITDA.  “You have no history, no track record, to justify EBITDA” was the explanation.  To this I would add that EBITDA is a measure of profits and hardly appropriate when there are none.

Investor No. 2:

Five minutes is better than twenty minutes.  Two minutes is ideal.  You can raise money in an elevator!  Think of this as being like a resume, which you write to get a meeting.  A one-page executive summary is the most investors will read.  Staff members do the rest.  Get them excited about investing in your company.

Hit things home without talking to doctors – “if you invest, you’ll make a lot of money” – that’s what I want to know.

Get the investor’s interest right away and then keep their interest. You’re talking to guys that have seen hundreds of business plans.

The growth rate needs to increase for the first three years.

How much will they need altogether?  I’m not looking to get my money back right away, and I don’t want them to be always raising money.  I want to triple my money in six to nine months and then another triple in six months.  I want to get in and out at the right price.

Two things matter to me:  the potential to grow big – so I can make 10X to 100X – and management.

I’m in the business to make a killing.

Investor No. 3

  1.  A big market
  2. What’s the basis for their competing –   their differentiation and competitive advantage?
  3. The financials – what’s the inflection point?  How effectively are they controlling expenses?  How can they avoid a down round?
  4. What’s the exit plan?  Who will the strategics be?  Why?  How long will it take?  What will it cost to get there?  What are the comparables?

The Next New New Thing

In 1999 Michael Lewis told the story of “the new new thing” in terms of a single individual, Jim Clark, a “new-capitalist adventurer” in the words of the NY Times reviewer.  It was an exciting story but as we approach 2015, it seems dated, even quaint – dated because the new new things were individual companies – Silicon Graphics, Netscape, myCFO and Healtheon.

Today new new things are explosions of companies that seem to come in waves – waves such as cloud computing, Big Data and now what Shivon Zilis, of Bloomberg Beta, calls machine intelligence.  One wave often drives another, or at least enables it.  Machine Intelligence, perhaps the newest new thing, depends on massive data sets, so Big Data had to come first.

Shivon has done us all a service by scouring the startup world for artificial intelligence, machine learning and data-related technologies and created a landscape that puts them all in context.  Her diagram of the Machine Intelligence Landscape – she’s using “machine intelligence” as a unifying term for machine learning and AI – has five categories, each with multiple subcategories that suggest some of the areas where they will transform the way we work and multiple companies already implementing them (www.shivonzilis.com/machineintelligence):

  • Core Technologies

o   Artificial Intelligence – Deep Learning – Machine Learning – NLP Platforms – Predictive APIs – Image Recognition – Speech Recognition

  • Rethinking Enterprise

o   Sales – Security/Authentication – Fraud Detection – HR/Recruiting – Marketing _ Personal Assistant – Intelligence Tools

  • Rethinking Industries

o   AdTech – Agriculture – Education – Finance – Legal – Manufacturing – Medical – Oil and Gas – Media/Content – Consumer Finance – Philanthropies – Automotive – Diagnostics – Retail

  • Rethinking Humans/HCI (human-computer interaction)

o   Augmented Reality, Gestural Computing, Robotics, Emotional Recognition

  • Supporting Technologies

o   Hardware – Data Prep – Data Collection

Shivon recommends we focus on her core technology category for innovations at the heart of machine intelligence and suggests using the landscape to package some of the technologies into a new new industry application for those of us looking to build a company.  So spot the market opportunities, and you have an amazing map for innovation!  Even Harry Potter didn’t have one of these!

Making Sense of Change

We all live in perpetual information overload and a swirl of new technologies.  Continuous learning is no longer an option.  Learn or be  lost.  Keeping track of it all, fitting pieces together, is a challenge that seems to become increasingly impenetrable.  Now Brian Solis of Altimeter has given us a structure to help us sort through the emerging digital universe.  Thank you, Brian!

Cloud-based social, mobile and real-time technologies are the hub of the Brian Solis Wheel of Disruption.

In the first circle around the three core themes are the following seven emergent technologies and sectors:

  • Big Data
  • Apps
  • Ephemeral (content that disappears in a short time)
  • Geo-location
  • Messaging
  • Gamification
  • 2d Screen

The second circle contains seven more:

  • Wearables
  • Makers
  • Beacons
  • Internet of Things
  • Sharing
  • Virtual AI – AR (Artificial Intelligence & Augmented Reality)
  • Payments

Alongside the wheel are six themes implemented by these technologies::

  • Platforms
  • Alternative Currencies
  • Mass Personalization
  • Crowd Funding/Lending (and I would add, Sourcing)
  • Anonymous/Private web
  • Instant Gratification

Here’s Brian’s marvelous infographic: http://www.briansolis.com/2014/12/digital-transformation-year-review/

My head already feels clearer!  I hope yours will as well!

Media Heads Up for 2015: 12 Takeaways

Media visionaries looked to the future at the Gotham Media’s Digital Breakfast at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz and made some predictions about social, mobile, TV and more for 2015 and beyond. Here are some highlights:

1. Ever-faster change – new things rise higher faster and fall faster.

2. Sensors all around that are passively aware of you. All cell phones have omnipresent computing.

3. Mobile payments. Apple’s entry will determine whether they make a difference. Most are safer than plastic, says John Abell, Senior editor, LinkedIn.

4. Continued migration of devices to mobile – even Facebook and video on mobile. Increasing importance of the second screen, though it’s still primitive. Monitors are losing to individual devices. “When the first screen gets boring, people go to the 2d screen,” reports Paul Berry, RebelMouse Founder and CEO

5. The steady growth of Facebook and mobile pose a challenge of how many pages per person can be sustained on your site.

6. Niche social networks will be big – a space for passionate sharing. (ED: Vertical networks were lumped into discussion of the category.) Niche networks will be combined with the 2d screen in the future – but with more than Twitter’s limited characters, predicts Berry.

7. People talking in a real voice as opposed to the institutional voice of mainstream media so that you hear individuals.

8. Infinite choice in content. “The quality level has been raised,” said Lockhart Steele, Editorial Director of Vox Media. “Now you have to do great stuff to get attention because there’s so much choice. . . The biggest challenge to media is the conversion to mobile. A lot of journalists are still writing in newspaper style.”

9. “Content is still king. It’s entirely defined by great talent,” according to Eric Wattenberg, Co- Head of Alternative Television at CAA.

10.“Traditional ads aren’t working. Only bots click. Millennials don’t even see the ads,” says Berry. At Vox, an in-house creative agency helps advertisers create native advertising. “The agency relationship is broken,” adds Steele. Every company has the opportunity and responsibility to be a media company, continues Berry. You need a product to be worth someone’s obsessing about it. Then put your money behind them. How do you measure social media effectiveness? Do viewers click? Share?

11 “But then we still don’t know how to measure TV,” Abell reminds us. “Yet, I don’t see how anything can supplant anything as unifying as TV.”

12.“The challenge for TV is how to get and keep an audience and grow it. It may be a combination of traditional TV with live elements in other forms of entertainment so that every week you’ll have to tune in and it’ll be fun and exciting to see what happens,” speculates Wattenberg.

Provenance: Gotham Media’s Digital Breakfast at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz 12.9.14. Alan Sacks, moderator – Counsel, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein I& Selz PC Panelists: John Abell, Sr. Editor, LinkedIn Paul Berry, Founder and CEO, RebelMouse; Lockhart Steele, editorial Director, Vox Media, and Eric Wattenberg, Co-Head of Alternative television, CAA

Banking without Banks

Banks said it couldn’t be done.  But innovative entrepreneurs are capitalizing on social media, Big Data and machine learning technology to make capital available to people who couldn’t get it before or couldn’t get it at affordable rates.

One company enables middle-class consumers in emerging markets to gain access to short-term loans by using social media to prove their credit worthiness.  Another has, in just 7 years, made $1 billion in business loans to small businesses with poor credit.  A third manages a credit marketplace of borrowers and investors in order to facilitate personal and business loans at lower rates than borrowers can get from banks – $7 billion in loans in 7 years. The fourth provides micro-loans without collateral to low-income Hispanic families who lack a credit history.

The companies are Lenddo, OnDeck, Lending Club and Progreso Financiero, and their founders told their stories at the Data Driven NYC Meetup in May.

The Situation

According to James Gutierrez, Founder & CEO, Insikt, Inc., a financial data analytics company, and formerly CEO of Progreso Financiero, which he founded:

  • New regulations for banks have changed lending:

o   Credit Card Act

o   Dodd Frank

o   Basel II

o   Basel II/II.5.

  • The availability of revolving credit is down – affects small business lending by banks – non-prime consumers are hit hardest
  • Technology is changing lending across the value chain, driving the price down

o   Applications drive higher volume and lower costs

o   Underwriting – big data makes more sources accessible and results in lower risk and increased capital

o   Servicing – electronic payments – ACH means lower costs and lower risks

o   Mobile payments by lower income borrowers – lenders use SMS for collection to lower cost and lower risk.

  • Banks can’t keep up with nonbank alternative lenders, which are transforming all loan products.

Four Nonbank Alternative Lenders Speak

Jeff Stewart, Founder & CEO, Lenddo

  • Launched early 2011
  • Serves middle class consumers in emerging markets
  • Goal was to involve the crowd in lending to the middle class using micro finance techniques and social media data to establish creditworthiness where none exists
  • Social data add value by making it possible to map good vs. bad borrowers in terms of affiliation because “birds of a feather  gather together” – “even two degrees out tells us how you will perform”
  • Integrates social networks with mobile & the cloud to use data sources
  • Works with the community on both demand generation and collections/repayments
  • Storage was a major technology issue – Chose MongDB at the outset with Amazon Web Services – database grew explosively – all opt in
  • User data = social data – grew exponentially – expensive even when only 20K members.
  • Realized “It’s big data, not big database” so they moved data to simple storage, created cache MongoDB for queries and cut costs 70% – they think about data use cases.
  • No database frees you to solve problems
  • Looking closely at bitcoin block chains to add value for transactions.

Noah Breslow, CEO, OnDeck

  • Has made $1 billion in business loans to small businesses with poor credit over 7 years
  • Loan size is small – $100K-$300K; banks need larger loans or they lose money – they need $1 million and up
  • SMEs represent a large and underserved addressable market
  • Built a platform to connect Main St. to Wall St., with OnDeck playing all four essential roles:  originator, servicer, credit bureau for collecting and aggregating data, and credit scoring (FIC0)
  • The database tracks small businesses from birth to death.
  • The digital footprint of different stores is totally different and depends on different data sources
  • Co. adds private performance data to public data and does a lot of fraud management and triangulation
  • Developed a different kind of credit score – it’s a business credit score, not a personal one with the focus on debt service calculations:  cash flow, trade credit, business attributes.  Social data is noisy – need to look at patterns.
  • A large number of small transactions – restaurants, retailers, doctors & dentists, small manufacturers, etc.
  • Gather data for scoring a business from many sources.  Building a data aggregation and learning platform that includes Mechanical Turk and common sense.
  • They price to risk.

Renaud Laplanche, Founder & CEO, Lending Club

  • Has created a credit marketplace of borrowers and investors, where Lending Club facilitates loans but is not involved on the credit side.
  • As a result, LC can operate at a lower cost than banks – banks have 5%-7% of amounts lent in operating expense vs. LC , which is under 2% and declining.
  • LC incurs none of some bank costs, such as the cost of branch offices, reserve requirements, and has lower costs or more advanced technology for customer acquisition, underwriting, origination and servicing.
  • Bank’s intermediation cost for credit cards is 16.99%.  LC’s range is 7.9%-127% with average intermediation cost of 4.83%.
  • A lower lending rate means a higher return to investors.
  • Have consistently controlled LC’s growth.  Now have 550 employees; hire 100 people every 6 mos.
  • Use data for marketing, credit, fraud and collections – receive about 9,000 loan applications a day.  Less than 10 are fraudulent, so that fraud becomes a needle in a haystack.
  • Fraud predictors:  time of day, frequency, etc.  New data sources:  device, online footprints, application use.  Look at consistency of the information provided, behavior online footprint, machine/device and location signal.
  • LC uses machine learning to assess risk and predict fraud based on more than a thousand attributes
  • Fraud attempts have declined from 5% to 2%.
  • Just formed a partnership with Union Bank in San Francisco, which overcomes the challenge of complying with 49 sets of state regulations for Lending Club and opens the way for a traditional bank to offer products it could not otherwise offer.  (Probably an indicator of a future trend.)

James Gutierrez, Founder & former CEO, Progreso Financiero

  • James was a 2005 MBA from Stanford
  • Micro finance gave him the idea for Progreso Financiero – unsecured micro loans and debit cards – delivered from a table in the supermarket – to help immigrants with no FICO scores
  • Typical loan size was $1,000 for 12 months.  Had to make 10,000 loans to get $1,000 back.
  • Immigrants with no FICO scores are a challenging population to underwrite
  • What he did:

o   Took an eHarmony approach with a robust application with extremely detailed personal data.  Detailed data turned out to be valuable.

 o   Booked some bad loans – a learning experience – the most valuable data is performance data – having a huge amount of data helps build a model – data science is no help

 o   Aggregated and analyzed alternative data:

      • 300 attributes on the application
      • Separate borrowers into nodes
      • Later 2,500 attributes from multiple sources
      • Over 120 segments
    •  Data helped simplify the process & determine the score
    •  Merged alternate data with bureau data
  • Fair equal Opportunity Act – the jury is out on what data you can use to deny credit, the actual underwriting decision
  •  Made more than 500,000 loans with single digit loses
  • Partnered with Prosper, the first peer-to-peer lending marketplace, with more than 2 million members and over $1 billion in funded loans.
    •  Risk model design
    • Loan valuation framework
    • Valuation stress testing.

Today James’s focus is on Insikt Inc., a financial data analytics company that uses data for risk models to apply to consumer markets.  He and his team are working on how to originate loans in the subprime market and how to create a more curated market for securitization – concerned with both bond performance & loan performance.

Panel Discussion, Moderated by Matt Turck, Organizer

  • Banks are encumbered by regulation
  • Alternative lending is only 5% of consumer finance

o   In 5 years we’ll see a lot of new entrants

o   More partnering with banks

  • Transforming the bank system to be more transparent and customer friendly
  • There are four different segments with lending opportunities

o   SMB

o   Consumers

o   US

o   Emerging markets

  • Top ten global institutions will be big players in financial services
  • Rates for consumers can be as low as 6.5%, average 12.5%; for business, 5.9%
  • Rate risk is better through the use of data and marketplace dynamics drive interest rates down
  • A virtuous circle continues to make credit more affordable and drives interest rates down
  • Most credit cards are priced at prime plus
  • Alternative lenders return a higher return to investor
  • Rates rise in a better performing economy and defaults come down so we expect our proceeds to be stable.

Innovation from Within: Google

The very name Google denotes innovation.  Thousands of engineers are at play at Google Labs, with a steady outflow of amazing experiments.  But what if innovation is about more than engineering?  What if it is also about the human dynamic of technology?  That’s where Abigail Posner comes in – not an engineer but a social anthropology practitioner who’s changing how Google innovates – in subtle ways.

Her major at Harvard, where she took honors, was social anthropology, the study of human culture and society.  It turned out to be right on for account planning at global agencies like Publicis and DDB. She joined Google in 2011 after a 16-year career in advertising and management consulting.  Her title is Head of Strategic Planning, Agency Development.  What’s planning?  Insight and strategy, she explains.

Google knew they needed her but could not define exactly in what ways, she reported at a recent Women Innovate Mobile event.  She had to use whatever processes it took to get political and emotional sponsorship and to build her practice.  And so progressing in her role became not about moving up but about moving out, spreading her impact in many directions, probing for feedback.  “And then they all help each other as opposed to doing only one thing well,” she said.

Her first job is to help clients – marketing agencies – develop ideas.  Her role is not to make sense of data but to help creatives come up with creative ideas that inspire people.  To do this means understanding the symbolic value of brands and products.  Her second responsibility is to develop insights using Google tools and anthropological research; her third is training.  She developed a course on insight development for internal marketers; then clients asked for it..

According to Abigail:  “Because people spend so much time with digital media, we need to get value to them.  It’s not about screens but points of contact and communication.  We need to leverage those.  We’re all social strategists.  Everything we do is social.  The social platform space is unlimited.  What does it mean to be social?  Mobile?  Search?  Everything will be social and mobile.  How can technology amplify this?  Are we getting that fulfilled?

“Place making, a fundamental insight of social anthropology, is an innate desire to make sense of places, to constantly remind us of who we are.  Cell phones allow us to make places like crazy.  We find information on a restaurant as we pass by.  Then we find a dish we like and photograph and share it.  All this creates value.  Being connected is an opportunity to leverage place making.

“Mobile phones allow us to tap into deep-seated needs and desires.  What’s new is the interest in understanding the human dynamic of technology.  How can we use this to elevate our lives?”

How might understanding the human dynamic of technology relate to product development?  Product development used to be largely engineering, she responds, with some usage research.  She hopes in time to have more input into product development.  What a thought:  products designed with the human dynamic as important as the technology or usage!  That sounds to me like the true basis for a great user experience.

The Future is Internet Access. not Devices

Frugal innovation that’s just good enough to enable free mobile Internet access in order to supports a focus on education for billions of low-income people. That’s both the personal and business mission of Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO, Datawind. The outcome? The first $40 tablet computer – the Aakash – launched first by the president of India, then by the UN Secretary General and today in use by thousands of students in India.

Suneet’s business goal is to create a low-price product that impacts people’s lives and, yes, make money from it. “I am not a charity,” he declaims. The Datawind business model is to forgo most of the company’s hardware margins and to focus instead on recurring revenue from content and apps in order to go after and, in time, own the price-sensitive consumer.

He believes everyone should focus on education. Education corrects everything, he says. No, the low-cost computer is not intended to replace teachers but to supplement what they can do. His sons get answers to all the questions they have after school from YouTube! And Forbes International recently recognized Suneet in its annual impact 15 list of education innovators.

Lesson No. 1 for US entrepreneurs: “just good enough” should be part of innovation. It’s not disruptive technology that wins; it’s the one the gorilla ignores – as we learned from Clayton Christiansen. Large companies, such as Apple and Samsung, could own the low-cost tablet market but it would dilute their brands to say nothing of their margins. Their business model is based on creating and producing high-quality, highly profitable hardware. Suneet’s, on the other hand, is to use hardware as a customer acquisition tool.

Lesson No. 2: the future is Internet access, not devices, in Suneet’s view – with money coming not from devices but from content, apps and advertising. In fact, Suneet’s next goal, in addition to bringing the cost of the Aakash down to $25, is to spark a global ecosystem of socially positive apps that empower women.

Are There Too Many Startups?

That was a question put to Albert Wenger, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures (USV), after his remarks last week at the BMW I Born Electric event.  Might this be a fad – like doing a band in the 70s? No, no and no, says Wenger.  We’re at the beginning of a transformation as big as the one from agriculture to industrial, he explained.  We need a lot of experimentation.  Even failures have social benefits in terms of the experience gained in taking risks, making decisions, etc.  This can benefit both large and small companies.

And today’s startups have a higher potential for life expectancy.  A lot of historical investing was binary, win-lose.  Now a small team with low capital expenditures can keep on going even if the business is not really hitting.

A significant outcome of seeing startups from the long-term perspective of sweeping transformation is USV’s “thesis-driven investing” – putting more emphasis on the principles of large-scale change than on traditional investing criteria, like market size, competitive situation, etc. No. 1 among these principles is the insight that networks will replace old hierarchies, with the unbundling of traditional services – single purpose services replacing all-in-one traditional newspapers, for example.  Classified ads went to Craig’s List.  Commentary went to blogs.  Breaking news went to Twitter.  People can find the other pieces just one click away, with no need for a single source.  All the companies in USVs investment portfolio exemplify this – among them, Lending Club, Pollenware and Edmodo, two in finance, one in education.  But no sector will escape.  Healthcare and government are just down the line..

In transportation, Wenger sees cars doing three things:  delivering transportation on demand, self-expression and fun and alone time.  Transportation, in turn, can mean delivering my body from point to point or solving an information problem.  Startups like Buzz Car and GetAround are examples of early peer networks that make it unnecessary to control your own car or where it goes.  Online shopping and delivery services can replace the need to get information by going to the grocery store.

Of course, as one audience member commented, industries under siege go to the government for help.  The hotel industry is opposing Airnb’s travel guides to staying in people’s apartments with regulations against renting out spare rooms.  The Taxi & Limousine Commission got a cease-and-desist against Uber, NYC’s on-demand car service. So then we have the inaugural peer network summit in San Francisco.  The battle is engaged:  yesterday vs. tomorrow!

First cousin to the notion of too many startups is the meme that social media are all frivolous.  But social is also becoming the enabling glue for how ideas are shared and funded. Hierarchical research journals and funding processes (NIH) are beginning to lose ground to innovations like Mendeley, a peer-network blog for sharing scientific research, and Kickstarter and others, which are extending their scope to research.  A huge flowering of research can be expected as a result.

Even Bigger than the Internet

The cloud is changing everything.  The change is even bigger than the change we saw from the Internet.  It will change how every business operates.  That’s what a cloud computing expert told me – Roger Krakoff, founder and managing partner of Cloud Computing Partners, a venture capital firm that invests exclusively in cloud computing.  I didn’t get it.  How could this be?  Then I had a second conversation with Roger.

An HBR Analytic Services white paper gave me the core of a cloud computing definition I like:  “enables access through the Internet to a shared pool of computing resources (hardware, software, etc.) that can be tapped on demand and configured and scaled up or down as needed.”  But it stops there.  Thanks to Roger I could now add “by any computing device.”  That was the missing link.  It’s the mobile implications that make cloud computing transformational – not merely evolutionary.   Aha!

But then came an e-mail exchange and Roger’s P.S. “better to think of cloud computing as dial-tone or electric power.  It is there when you need it.  Pay by the unit and it just works.”  Bingo!  The cloud is the new utility – like electrical power or water or the Internet!  One source of its power to transform businesses is what happens when it handles business transactions.  And this is already happening in a really big way. 

On May 17th, IBM released the following stats about its enterprise SmartCloud services customers:   one million enterprise application users working on the IBM Cloud.  More than $100 billion in commerce transactions a year in the cloud.  4.5 million daily client transactions conducted through the IBM Cloud.  And that’s just one major vendor of cloud services! 

What’s more it’s just the beginning.  TopCoder, the world’s largest open innovation community, with 400,000 developers is moving to the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise.  From this we can expect an exponential increase in innovation, as these developers support the organizations for which they work with the entire innovation process – from ideation, software engineering and analytics to implementation, testing and support.

At YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/ibmcloud) I found the moving story of how the cloud has transformed the Bari fishing industry – and made life better for the fishermen and their families with a new business model.  Until recently, the fishermen caught too many fish.  They exceeded market demand, Thanks to cloud computing, they can now communicate how many fish they are catching in real time and a virtual market can sell the fish before the boats dock.  Now they catch only as many fish as the market consumes, their income is up 25 percent and the time to market is down 70 percent.  Wow!  That’s innovation that matters!