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Jim gives his take from the Wired Business Conference

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On Tuesday May 3 I had the privilege of attending the third annual Wired Business Conference in New York City, “live tweeting” from the @WiredBiz Twitter account.

A lot went on and there were some impressive speakers with fantastic insights.

In the podcast, I look at 6 take-aways from some of the world’s best thought-leaders:

Speaker: Bill Gates
Takeaway: Money+Brains = a good thing

I came away very impressed with Mr. Gates. He said that the amount of IQ being spent thinking about energy now vs 20 years ago is night and day. I’m glad that he is one of the brains thinking about this.

Look, Bill spent 25 years as CEO of Microsoft. He made more money than just about anyone on the planet (he was the world’s wealthiest man for 13 straight years from 1995-2007). And now he is on to something new.

And let me tell you, I was impressed with how passionate and knowledgeable he was about everything from solar panels to nuclear, with a lot of big words in between that I didn’t understand. My favorite quote though, “You really don’t want to mess with hydrogen.”

Speakers: Harj Taggar from Y Combinator / Chris Sacca from Lowercase Capital
Takeaway: Are we in a startup bubble?

These two speakers were well teamed, combining a firm specializing in finding new startups, and a venture capital partner that had invested in Photobucket and Twitter.

Are we in a startup bubble right now? Here’s their take… Right now the problem is that “it’s cool to be an angel investor.” Therefore, it is bringing a lot of uneducated people with extra money to burn and they are just throwing it at companies and hoping something will hit instead of doing the homework. They said at startup meetups…

“There used to be a dozen, maybe two dozen guys mulling around these business plans writing checks. Now there’s hundreds. It’s a train, and it’s kind of running away.”

They talk about the culture in Silicon Valley, and how vested employees from Google/Facebook/Twitter are funding the next generation of startups… it’s in their DNA to give back.

Chris also joked about the “3 stages of wealth”
1) From debt to $0 (getting out from under college loans just to be even)
2) From $0 to $25k (having enough money to be able to go out to eat once in awhile)
3) From $25k to $100k (realizing that if your current startup fails, you have a big enough cushion to start your next one)

So with so many people just throwing money around and not looking at the proper metrics,

How do the best spot a good startup?
“We try to find people that have the spark of insanity.”

Speaker: Mick Mountz, Kiva Systems
Takeaway: Robots will take over the world, or at least your online order

This one was tough to explain on the podcast, but the videos showing the automated robotic order packing system that companies like Zappos, Diapers.com, and Staples uses was insane. The video below isn’t the same one they showed, but you get the idea.

Speaker: Sal Khan, Khan Academy
Takeaway: Your kid’s new teacher is YouTube

“YouTube’s for dogs on skateboards not serious mathematics… but kids said they liked me better on YouTube ” -on Khan Academy’s start

At any given second, 15 questions are being answered on Khan Academy, and there’s a reason. The “blackboard over video” format is highly engaging and lets students go at their own pace.

What’s more, the backend database allows teachers to instantly pinpoint which students are doing fine, but which are stuck and need more help.

Speaker: Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix
Takeaway: Faster video is coming

Reed addressed a question I always ask, “When can I cut the cord on Cable?” Well, he said people keep cable because of live sports, news events, and … reality TV (which is like sports for drama since you have to keep up with it and people talk about it soon after).

He also talked about how they were able to effectively use Moore’s Law to predict when they would be able to launch Netflix streaming, and that continuing along this, we would have a Gigabit connection to the home in 2021 (although Google is bringing it to Kansas City now).

He then told a story of having DSL internet access at the end of a 10 mile dirt road in a surfing village in Costa Rica, and that developing countries are actually debating the merits of laying Internet fiber connections vs. paving roads — that’s how important internet access has become.

Marketing lesson:
If they can get someone to use Netflix 2-3 times a month (for just $8), the person is happy
If they can get someone to use Netflix 2-3 times a week, they become an evangelist

Speaker: Martha Stewart
Takeaway: From tablets to glitter, she’s truly omnimedia

Some observations on Martha:
– She has three media empires she resides over: Publishing, merchandise, and media

– It was oddly and completely fascinating to me to hear her describe the process for which she described the design and production of the perfect pan

– She has built 21 kitchens in her lifetime

– She has a secret product on the way that everyone will need. She just has to figure out how to bond two substances together (she declined the offer to crowdsource the answer)

– She is incredibly dialed in with technology, detailing how she has ditched her laptop for the iPad, and uses it to create and consume content. Then she brought out a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and proceeded to demo it to Chris Anderson

– On the topic of glitter: “We sell 100 different kinds of glitter, we’ve sold tons of it, and the colors are fabulous” —

– On Twitter: “When you get into millions of followers, they do start to ask for weird things…”

And finally, she seems like a tough, err, cookie. After all, she spent 5 months in federal prison – a subject she joked about when asked “what things have you tried that have gone wrong?” But some might forget that people predicted her empire would fold. Yet, it was back to being profitable in 1 year.

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