Take a look at IBM’s 5 innovations for the next 5 years

Every year, IBM comes up with a list of five innovations it believes will become popular within the next five years. For 2011, it has come up with the following technologies it thinks will gain traction. I also look back at some of its previous predictions.

My Google Wave Wish List: The Document Collaboration Edition

My previous post “6 Tips for Using Google Wave on your First Project” was really about the initial experience a client and I had with Google Wave (s goog), and some the early lessons we learned. While I would rank both of us as web-savvy early adopters, suffice it to say my wish list for Google Wave features has been growing fairly rapidly. Read More about My Google Wave Wish List: The Document Collaboration Edition

Energy Harvesting Gets Four Legs and Fur

Energy harvesting has been getting interest from a number of different sectors for tiny, energy-saving applications, and now it’s making its way down to the nanoscale. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have attached a tiny muscle-movement-driven generator to a hamster and let him loose in his little hamster wheel, running and scratching, to show that energy can be harvested from irregular body movements (hat tip to MIT’s Technology Review).


The system uses a piezoelectric-based nanogenerator where the stretching of a nanowire creates electricity. Zhong Wang, a materials science and engineering professor who led the research, told the Technology Review that this is the first time a generator has been shown to get energy from small, irregular motion — irregular in terms of frequency of motion as well as amplitude of power. This opens the door for possible uses in implantable medical devices that get their power from muscle stretches, heartbeats and bloodflow.

Putting energy harvesting nanodevices into bodies may be a few years away, but there are some energy harvesting systems that are already on the market, or at least much closer to market, including wireless sensors, regenerative braking, and even bumps in the road. And it’s not just startups that are getting in the game.
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Hey Founders: Shut Up!

I know it’s cool to dis the “MSM” — it’s one of my favorite pastimes — but I’ve also spent years as a journalist and editor. Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the lessons I’ve learned from the journalism profession, and how they can be — and should be — embraced by startup founders.

*Lesson 1: Seek the Truth*

Founders are dreamers. They look at the world and see a problem and cannot rest until its solved. To do that, you have to be a little crazy. After all, if the problem was easily solved, it probably would have been already. So founders have to be willing to suspend their disbelief and drive toward a goal, no matter what.

Journalists live in a perpetual state of disbelief. Skepticism is the norm. Because, in journalism, nothing is true unless you can back it up. Just because one person says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. See if you can get someone else to confirm. Double, triple check. Your reputation is on the line.

*The journalist-founder needs be a dreamer and a skeptic.* You need to have the desire to pursue your crazy dream to the bitter end, but you also need to retain your skepticism. If the plan doesn’t work, what’s the fallback? Are you sure you have all the right information to make your decisions? Are you double checking what people tell you?

*Lesson 2: Be Relentless*

I was the editor of a small newspaper in Santa Cruz. When we were running a story about the local college and the provost was not returning my calls, I went and sat in her office. When her assistant told me she wasn’t in, I kept my butt in the chair anyway. When she finally left for the day, I caught her and got my interview.

*The journalist-founder needs to be dogged.* When the email isn’t returned, call. When the call isn’t returned, visit. When that doesn’t work, try something else. You have to want it more than anyone else – that’s what’ll make your startup succeed where others failed.

*Lesson 3: Shut Up!*

I can’t tell you how many startup meetings I’ve attended over the last twelve years where smart people sat in a room repeating themselves, not listing to anyone around them. The journalist-founder knows better.

The meat of journalism is the interview. Asking the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, to get the most valuable insights out of the people around you. To do that, you can’t be the one talking. In fact, *if you don’t shut up and listen, you’ll miss a valuable chance to learn from those around you*.

For exampe: I was interviewing someone on the phone the other day. He was a hard guy to get ahold of and we didn’t have much time. I asked him a few questions and then laid out a brief sketch of the idea I had. I thought he’d be an ideal customer.

“I would never use that site in a million years,” he said.

Every cell in my body screamed out at once: _He must not get it! Explain it some more!_

Instead I said: “Why?”

He started listing off the problems he saw, and I started taking notes. Of course, I had rebuttals to every one, but my job in this interview was not to convince him of my brilliant idea, it was to get his feedback. So I listened until he finished, and then repeated his main concerns back to him to make sure I got them all down correctly.

In the end, I may not change my idea at all. But if he has those concerns, chances are, other customers may, too. By listening to them now, I’ll be better prepared. That phone call, as disheartening as it was, probably saved me months of work.

*Lesson 4: Produce Something*

All of the above — seeking the truth, being relentless, talking less and listening more — are integral parts of journalism, but in the end, the product is what counts. For the process to matter, you have to produce a story to share your results with the world.

Too often, founders hoard their work too long. _We’ll put the site out once we add a few more features. We can’t share what we’ve learned because it’ll help our competitors. Sit and wait._

*The journalist founder knows that there’s nothing to fear from producing something.* It doesn’t have to be perfect — you just have to put it out there, listen to the feedback from your customers, and then do it again, making sure that each iteration gets a little better.

No one ever won a Pulitzer for the story they almost wrote.