33Across Becomes a Social Data Powerhouse

Eric Wheeler has done an incredible job of building 33Across. By incredible, I mean that on modest capital and in a far shorter period of time than his competitors, he has established leading marketshare and a compelling, unique positioning in category. Specifically, 33Across has a first rate team and has built and proven the most impressive Brand Graph targeting algorithms in the industry.

Brand Graph-based targeting has emerged as a powerful technique for marketers to place their message in front of people who care, with the corresponding benefit that as users, we’re saved the noise of advertising that has no relevancy. But the quantity and breadth of data required to drive these sophisticated algorithms is mind-boggling. This is the basis of the hook-up between 33Across and Tynt.

Tynt’s network of publisher partners through which data is collected is about the best there is along with the expansive data sets that a Google or Facebook have. We at Tynt predicted that independent sources of data able to meet high-value applications would be incredibly valuable.

The decision to sell Tynt at this time, versus building out a business on top of our core data assets came down to focusing on strengths. Tynt’s relentless focus has been on scaling to countless billions of data points every month.

After spending time with Eric’s team and watching first hand how they operate, our board chose to get a deal done with 33Across despite having multiple alternative offers.  We believe this moves Tynt forward 18 months and takes away the risk of getting to the front of the pack.

iNovia is proud to be part of the 33Across investor group moving forward.

01.24.12 Release: 33Across acquires Social Publishing Giant Tynt
01.25.12 VentureBeat: Social ad startup 33Across buys Tynt, taps into the power of copy and paste
01.25.12 TechCrunch: 33Across Acquires Tynt to Become Social Data Powerhouse 01.25.12 AllThingsD: Social Ad Guys 33Across Buy Copy/Paste Guys Tynt


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Rogers One Rocks… Skype back on its heels.

On Wednesday, Rogers Wireless released as beta a game changing free service. If you have a Rogers mobile phone, install “One Number” immediately! (www.rogersonenumber.ca). I’ve used it more than a dozen hours in the past two days and it is changing my view of telephony and VoIP. Rogers One has replaced my desk phone.

Once you install the Mac service (also available for windows and presumably soon for iOS and android) all calls to your mobile phone will simultaneously ring on your laptop. In fact, most incoming calls are missed by my iPhone 4 altogether but now I know about it because they ring on my laptop. The voice quality is astounding, throwing in sharp contrast the pathetic reliability of Skype. I never would have imagined hour after hour of perfect audio without a single dropped call over the Internet.

Skype offers video (unreliably, and it often compromises audio quality), has far superior echo cancelation, and is terrific for multi-party conference calls, but bugs in recent releases across all operating systems has made it near unusable, and the insane pricing complexity since the Microsoft acquisition has me actively shopping for alternatives.

The big win is having a single number; that I’m no longer saying, “can you call me back on my landline?” Even better, I can switch a call from cell to VoIP or back again without missing a syllable, ideal on those long conference calls when I need to hop in the truck to start for a meeting while continuing to listen.

The killer value will be out of country use, where I’m now in the habit of turning off my mobile due to the roaming extortion we’ve come to expect from Canadian carriers. No longer will I even need to toggle call forwarding on and off when crossing the border.

Now if only there was a simple way to buy a reasonably priced data plan while roaming…

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More important than the telephone.

iOS 5 finally syncs wirelessly.

Although predictable, this marks a milestone in the inevitable shift of communications from wired to wireless. From tethered to always connected. We’re entering the age where wireless data connectivity becomes the fourth most important commodity in the world (not to dis food, water and energy).

While I’m as eager to experiment with the latest gadget as the next guy, I find that the obligations of ownership ultimately outweigh the benefits for all but those few exceptionally well designed products entitled to earn an enduring place in everyday life. Since setting up my iPad a year ago, I’ve synched it with my computer exactly, um… ZERO times. it’s not that I wouldn’t like to get all that great new music my wife has since purchased, or that don’t think it would be a good idea to backup regularly, but I’ve configured it so that all my important work tasks are live synched wirelessly to the cloud and everything else is, well, not worth the hassle.

With iOS 5, Apple has realized that everyone else (i.e. Google, Dropbox, Evernote) has gone “over the top” and the tethered to iTunes model is no longer a source of lock-in for them (remember “podcasts?”). True to the spirit of successful companies, Apple is willing to let go of the past and hurry iTunes to obsolescence with iCloud rather than pining for better days gone by.

So WiFi has suddenly saturated in our home. We live in a world that used to conserve bandwidth at all costs, now the equation has changed and battery is the scarce resource. Bandwidth is a scalable resource, sometimes free and sometimes obscenely expensive (think roaming). While compute and storage are, well, practically free in the cloud.

Zero maintenance means products which sport intelligent wireless behaviour. Behaving differently depending on availability and cost of bandwidth.

This all conspires to make wireless data bandwidth the source of value, and why you’ll see iNovia funding companies that speak to it…

Stay tuned.


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Was there a mail strike? I didn’t notice

Apparently Canada Post went on strike. When I was a kid, that was a big deal. But since we only check our mailbox once a week now, I really didn’t notice this time. The only effect of the strike is to force the realization that mail is no longer an essential service. The vast majority of real mail is now electronic and couriers do an excellent job with the remnants. Direct marketing is not a government service! Happily, cp notionally operated at a profit last year despite a $250m drop in revenue. Unfortunately they would need a dozen such years to clear the unfunded pension liability that will otherwise come back to taxpayers. Labour practices are appallingly out of touch with reality with seven week vacations, “sick days” having become a euphemism for another three weeks vacation, pension plans and other perks gone from the real work for a decade or more. As revenues continue to plummet we need to aggressively get this non-essential service in sync with 21st century reality!

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Signing documents without the print/scan hassle

Like other folks that sit on more than a couple boards, I get many documents per week that I need to review, print out, sign, scan back in and email. I’m a stickler for initialing every page of documents I’m approving so while it may seem a small matter, the amount of time, printer expense and paper waste bothers me. More importantly, I’m often out of my office and begging someone to print a document for me and let me borrow their fax, or more to my chagrin, hold people up by deferring the task. Hence my search for a simple way of stamping my initials and signature on documents electronically. MacOS makes it easy to print everything to PDF, and this is the way I file everything so my solution needed to be be PDF based and Acrobat is silly expensive so I ignored that option.

After hunting around and trying a couple alternatives, I’m now using PDFpen (MacOS AppStore) which is overpriced at $60 since it does much more than allow you to attach signatures, but it does do the job simply. It let’s you get just the right transparency level on your signature and has a straight-forward “library” floating window so that once you’re set up it is super quick to just slam down your john henry in the 27 spots required, initialing every page as you go. Now you might say what about those old-school lawyers that demand a hard copy? Life is too short to placate them and I’ve found that even the persistent ones eventually cave when I ignore them.

One trick to making this work is that you need to go into Apple’s colorsync program (in the utilities folder) and add a new profile so that when it comes time to save PDF file, you’ll have an option to compress the file to a reasonable size for email. Even 50 page documents can be compressed to a few megabytes while preserving colour and good quality if you get the settings right.

The whole process comes down to “printing to PDF” to your filing system from word/excel/etc. while you’re reviewing, then dragging that icon to PDFpen to add signatures, then drag the icon back to your reply email. That’s about as expedient as I can imagine, and much quicker than printing.

Some day we’ll get a step closer to the fancy PGP digital signatures I used to put on my emails 15 years ago but until then, here’s to keeping it simple with a paperless, mobile office that let’s you spend more time thinking about business issues rather playing the paper chase.

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Entrepreneurism thriving in the prairies

I had the invigorating experience of spending today (Saturday, January 21st) with the next generation’s brightest University of Saskatoon graduate and undergraduate students (http://bit.ly/hi8wHH).

This morning’s i3 Workshop challenged 16 teams to express their ideas as opportunity based businesses plans. We worked through establishing a value proposition, segmenting markets and prioritizing the endless things that tug on an entrepreneur’s time.

In an afternoon talk to engineering students, I shared examples of excellent agility our portfolio company entrepreneurs have demonstrated in the past year, and talked about the how world class innovative companies can be built anywhere today.

Sanj Singh and the W. Brett Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence are doing an excellent job inspiring passion for true innovation across multiple schools.

I believe the most important thing we need to do to foster innovation economies in addition to the resource based one we’re so fortunate to be born into is influence our next generation business leaders.

I’m proud to have been asked back to support the program again this year.

Video review by Global News at http://bit.ly/gLpxDp


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Slam! Moore’s law hits the Power Wall.

Over 13 years ago, Intel Chairman Gordon Moore announced to the world at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) that the law famously attributed to him — that computing power doubles every 18 months — would “get to some finite limits” in five generations. In the fall of 1997 the world was transitioning from .35 micron to .25 micron. I held my pen over million dollar cheques to IBM that year for one chip in each process. Then came .18 micron, 90 nanometer (nm), 65nm, 45nm and now we’re fully five generations of technology past his prediction, at 32nm.

Doubling the number of transistors by shrinking features, and continuing to increase clock rates as those transistors move closer together also serves to increase power consumption which, Moore noted, would generate untenable amounts of heat. It did. And it does.

Which is why we have slammed into the Power Wall.

Even layman have noticed that chips aren’t getting faster any more. Instead there is a huge sucking noise as Intel, AMD and others absorb everything they can find into their “system on a chips” in order to soak up the real estate generated as we move to smaller geometries.

Incorporating the GPU, memory and I/O into a single package at smaller geometries still increases both power density and total power. Every additional watt of power fed into a chip must be removed as waste heat after it’s job is done, so advanced technologies to remove heat are becoming highly valued. Just as Henry Ford began mass producing liquid cooled cars against great scepticism with the Model T in 1907, a century later we’re seeing liquid cooled computers enter mass production in the data centre.

All of this means that chip design has become first and foremost about balancing a complete system within power consumption and heat dissipation constraints — or working against “the Power Wall”.


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