The following scene plays out millions of times a day all over the world: A commuter is headed to work in her car. Keeping safe on the road is taking the majority of her attention. In fact, she’s blissfully unaware of the symphony of mechanical engineering that is happening all around her.
To keep the car moving, gas is being combusted in pressurized chambers to produce thrust to move the pistons up and down and drive the crankshaft. She doesn’t see any of that. Instead, she sees a visualization of that activity through the RPM gauge on her dashboard. The gas that is fueling the engine is being syphoned out of her gas tank and injected into the engine. She doesn’t have to worry about the level of fuel, because she can see how much gas she has right there on her dashboard via the fuel gauge.
And finally, she’s able to avoid trouble with the law and still arrive to work on time by maintaining an optimal speed, which is conveyed to her by the speedometer on her… you guessed it, dashboard.
Now, let’s remember this commuter as we examine another occurrence that likewise happens millions of times a day:
A CEO is sitting in his office.
He has 300 employees and his company produces small aluminum parts for model aircraft and cars. He is in the proverbial driver’s seat of his company, sitting in the office chair in the CEO’s office. Ensuring his company runs smoothly takes up the majority of his attention. Perhaps not as unbeknownst as the engine functions to the commuter, the CEO is aware that there is an abundance of activity going on all around him in his company. However, the data to measure that activity is not at his fingertips.
If he needs to know how production is going today, he’ll probably have to put a call into his factory foreman to ask for the figures. At that point, the foreman will have to email the data up to the CEO.
If the CEO wants to know how collections on the company’s accounts are going, he’ll have to walk over to accounting and ask for a report on the latest figures. Likewise, his queries to HR and customer service will be handled in a similar manner.
The way he is collecting data is rudimentary. If he was the commuter, he would be getting out of the car with a dipstick to check the fuel level. He’d also have his head out the window to hear the roar of the engine to estimate the RPMs and to know when to shift.
This analog method of data collection is why data dashboards are becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the software market. They take all of the data from a myriad of sources and visualize it in an easily digestible fashion. What used to take up the majority of senior management’s day is now automated and delivered in moments.
The improvements in efficiencies that this technology offers are plentiful. For instance, if a shipment of parts is delayed at the loading docks, this data can be seen immediately. Management could then make adjustments to the production queue in order to avoid a slowdown due to missing parts.
A sales manager could see the performance of his entire team up to the minute. That data could then be passed along to the C-Suite where marketing budgets could be adjusted in order to accommodate more leads for the sales team.
The possibilities are truly endless. Therefore, entrepreneurs and established businesses alike can benefit from this technology. With so many possibilities for reporting products, entrepreneurs can target a vertical, produce an innovative solution, and attack a wide open market. Meanwhile, the established business can identify a shortcoming in their data aggregation, identify a product that addresses that shortcoming and increase their productivity immediately.
Data Dashboards are not a new technology, but with more data becoming available and technology becoming ubiquitous through the use of mobile devices, the need for dashboards has become critical in companies large and small.
When I was a youngish “tech lawyer” in D.C., I discovered that every D.C. lawyer advocating for tech entrepreneurs thought they were full-blown tech lawyers. We were not. We were policy advocates.
I learned this the hard way, perhaps at the expense of my own terribly innovative client. I was a lawyer for a startup that had the potential to dramatically disrupt the telecom sector. My client, Free World Dialup (FWD), was launching a peer-to-peer IP network that would provide for free global voice communications. Sound familiar? That’s because FWD paved the way for another startup — Skype.
But FWD was Skype before Skype was Skype. The difference was that FWD had U.S. attorneys who put the reigns on FWD to seek FCC approvals to launch free of regulatory constraints.
In lightning regulatory speed (18 months), the FCC acknowledged that FWD was not a telecom provider subject to onerous telecom regulations. Sounds like a victory, right? Think again. During the time it took the FCC to greenlight FWD, the foreign founders of Skype proceeded apace with no regard for U.S. regulatory approvals. The result is that Skype had a two-year head start and a growing embedded user base, making it difficult for FWD, constrained by its U.S.-trained attorneys, to compete.
Conversely, every lawyer within the tech centers from Silicon Valley to SiliconAlley thought they were “tech lawyers.” We, too, were not. Frankly, we were largely clueless on the trajectory of evolving policies and politics that would dramatically affect the prospects of our tech clients. When that rare attorney came along who understood the trajectory and implications of tech policy and politics, great ventures were launched.
I point to CMP.ly, a company founded by a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur — and an early client of my students and me — who anticipated where Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosure obligations were headed and created a platform to help companies comply with those regulations. CMP.ly is a venture that only a legally-astute and policy-aware entrepreneur could have launched.
I resolved to play a role to ensure that the next generation of tech lawyers was well versed across the spectrum of substantive and procedural issues needed to provide meaningful counsel to their tech entrepreneurial clients. Knowing the intricacies of tech transactions without knowing how policy would affect the venture does a disservice to the client. Advancing policy reform without really understanding the needs of tech startups does a disservice to tech ventures and the future of tech and entrepreneurship.
Eight years ago, I was working with tech-oriented startups and simultaneously teaching telecommunications law as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School. Every 22-year old I met had an idea that she thought would become the next Google. None of these upstarts, although often well-educated, had the independent expertise, or the financial resources to hire competent counsel, to turn their ideas into sustainable ventures upon solid legal foundations. Frankly, few NYC-based tech lawyers were even equipped to understand the full ramifications of next-generation startups pushing the limits of law and policy.
At the time, I also observed that many law students were frustrated entrepreneurs themselves. They often went to law school because they didn’t believe they could spend the next three years of their lives mono-maniacally focused on their grand quixotic ventures. So, why not train this next generation of lawyers to think like the next generation of entrepreneurs? This would let them work together to transform legal education and the legal profession while advancing the needs of next generation startups.
This week Brooklyn Law School is launching the Brooklyn Law Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), what I view as the next phase in the evolution of the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy (BLIP) Clinic. CUBE will serve as a unified hub for scholarship, practice, education, and events on issues at the intersection of law and entrepreneurship. Among other pursuits, CUBE will embed faculty and students in the outposts of Brooklyn’s startup community. Like anthropologists, we will live among the entrepreneurs, learn to think like the entrepreneurs, learn to better enable entrepreneurs, and, perhaps, even become entrepreneurs ourselves.
Jonathan Askin founded the BLIP Clinic when he joined Brooklyn Law School in 2008, bringing more than a decade of experience in the communications industry from both the public and private sectors. He has provided legal and policy counsel and strategic advice for companies that build and develop communications networks and Internet applications, as well as for other technology-oriented enterprises and startups. A sought-after expert in the field of Internet law, he played a key role in the tech task force of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign. He has also served as president and general counsel for the Association for Local Telecommunications Services and was a senior attorney at the Federal Communications Commission. He is actively involved in developing Brooklyn as the 21st century “Silicon Alley.”
Newark Mayor CoryBooker cruised to victory in New Jersey’s special election tonight. As a long-term presidential hopeful, he’ll instantly become one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful voices. Booker represents a permanent shift in how Silicon Valley is trying to give an ideological overhaul to the Democratic Party.
Booker is a world-class tweeter, co-founder to an ailing video startup, and beneficiary of Mark Zuckerberg’s $ 100 million education donation to Newark schools. But to see how Booker might act as a legislator, it’s helpful to look at the policies of other tech industry favorites in the Democratic Party.
Mayor Bloomberg outright admitted that “we’re going to have more visibility and less privacy” in a candid radio Interview on his push for drone-powered surveillance. He also threatened to “fucking destroy” the taxi industry over its existential fight with ridesharing apps, Uber and Lyft.
As mayor, instead of outlawing stop-and-frisk, the racially charged practice of searching suspects on the street without a warrant, his approach was radical transparency. Every stop must now meticulously record the race, location, and reason; that data is then opened to the public for scrutiny.
His novel approach won accolades from Newark’s American Civil Liberties Union for balancing public safety and individual rights. But, a traditional liberal would likely have just outright banned the practice.
That is, one of Booker’s signature law-enforcement measures was imbued with some Silicon Valley idealism: Open the data and solutions will follow.
As a senator he’ll have a chance to bring an innovation-first approach to legislation. Here are a few predictions and an indication of the kinds of liberal policymaking that could become dominant within the Democratic Party.
Reforming the criminal justice system is a priority for Booker, especially focusing on teaching prisoners skills to re-enter the workforce. Social-impact-bonds pilots have leveraged for-profit entrepreneurs to find jobs for the previously incarcerated. With enough money thrown at the problem, startups could leverage data technologies to help with the process.
Education: Mandatory Transparency, More Charters, and Universal Computer Science – President Obama proposed an overhaul of higher education, including a new way to rate schools based on post-graduate employment. It’ll also financially support schools that want to experiment with MOOCs and a cheaper path-to-degree through online education.
There’s also legislation afoot to provide more resources to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses. Booker will likely support it, and may even be the first champion of it in the Senate.
Immigration Reform – High-skilled supporter. Full stop. Last spring we did an interview during a Twitter town hall that Booker conducted in support of high-skilled immigration reform. He’ll likely oppose union-sponsored limitations to high-skilled visas, like a mandatory 90-day waiting period for foreign workers.
Surveillance Reform – Booker is unlikely to buck his presidential mentor on National Security Agency spying. He’ll likely move lockstep with the upcoming recommendations from the White House task force on surveillance reform. He might support more transparency in the surveillance process, just like Facebook and Google have proposed, but mass surveillance will continue close to current levels.
Surveillance isn’t entirely a traditional liberal issue, as many Democrats for voted for–and against–Representative Amash’s failed amendment to halt mass spying. That said, privacy will unlikely be a priority of Booker or the new Democrats.
Open Government – At SXSW, Booker promised that he’d use technology to open up the legislative process. The House of Representatives has been far more forward-thinking, experimenting with crowdsourced legislation, an online petition process for pending laws, and making data on legislation open to the public. Senate leadership has lagged — maybe Booker will pick up the slack. Or, ideally, invent a novel way of participation.
The new Democratic party still sees government as a force for positive change, but the indirect path of innovation and transparency as the best possible path to help society’s most vulnerable. It’s a bold new world for Democrats, and Silicon Valley is playing a big part.
A lot of virtual ink has been spilled over the years discussing the differences between SiliconValley and Silicon Beach.
Reporters who cover the topic mostly agree that the two are very different, but many haven’t enunciated how. They do concur on one thought: SiliconValleyinvestors are relatively more concept-focused than revenue- and profit-focused, while the opposite is true in Silicon Beach.
Why is there this regional investor difference?
How the two areas will change over the coming decade has not yet been determined. But, if entrepreneurs understand why the two regions’ investors are different today, they may be able to draw financial backers from both areas and put their companies on fiscally strong paths for the future.
In our roles as financial advisors and consultants, we’ve worked with a number of clients in both regions. We think the difference between investors has to do with three factors: time, space, and history.
Silicon Valley has existed for longer than Silicon Beach
The term “Silicon Valley” was coined in 1971.
Modern SiliconValley took shape during the tech boom of the 1990s. Investors in the Bay Area region have more experience investing in technology start-ups than their counterparts down south (to this day, they see many more deals in the seed and series A stages). They know that any idea, no matter how “out there” it may seem, could turn into the next Google or Facebook.
Silicon Beach investors haven’t experienced many breakout hits, so they’re more interested in seeing that start-up companies have proven concepts, workable products and real customers in order to feel assured that there is promise.
Silicon Beach is scattered geographically over a larger space
While arguably centered in Santa Monica-Venice-Playa Vista, its companies are spread over the entire 500 square mile area of Los Angeles. SiliconValley is mainly centered on the Palo Alto/Mountain View and San Francisco hubs. Talent in SiliconValley flows heavily from Stanford University and UC Berkeley, while in Silicon Beach it comes from UCLA, USC, Caltech, and others.
While buzz about hot start-ups can reach SiliconValleyinvestors quickly, good news may take longer to travel in Silicon Beach due to the somewhat fragmented lines of communication among the investor base there.
Silicon Valley investors have a history with the technology industry
Silicon Beach investors have a history with the media, entertainment and fashion industries.
There are many different types of technology start-ups in SiliconValley. There are social media start-ups, electric car start-ups, big data, and cloud-based start-ups. Though Silicon Beach also has a selection of technology companies, they have mainly focused their businesses on media, entertainment, e-commerce, fashion and lead-gen. Southern California investors are especially familiar with media, entertainment, and fashion, as they have been a dominant part of their culture for nearly a century.
They know that companies related to these industries can work, just that they need be done in a certain way. To boot, there is no shortage of local celebrities available to endorse their products.
As time goes on, Silicon Beach and SiliconValley investor attitudes may begin to synchronize, or grow further apart. Right now, time, space, and history are getting in the way of their harmony.
Entrepreneurs who understand why the two areas’ investors are dissimilar may be able to take advantage of those differences today. They may be able to draw in more investors, allowing their companies to draw in more revenue, and putting their companies in a fiscally sound position to survive however Silicon Beach and SiliconValley change in the future.
David Johnson heads TempCFO, a consultancy that outsources the accounting and finance functions for venture-backed companies. Through TempCFO, David has advised and mentored over 1,000 startups.
Garry Whitfield is a Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor in the Menlo Park Area. Formerly a practicing CPA, Garry has a master’s degree in Taxation. He served as the business manager and CFO for the multi-platinum and Grammy award winning recording artist Creed (and it’s affiliated companies), and cofounded the startup consulting firm, TempCFO Solutions.
Eric W. Johnson is a managing director in the Los Angeles (Century City) office of Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, where he advises an ultra-high-net-worth clientele primarily consisting of entrepreneurs in the technology industry.
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