Must you ‘know’ your market, really?

One of entrepreneurship’s great maxims is that it is vital that a founder know his/her market.
But I’ve recently met a couple of really impressive entrepreneurs who have very little–if anything–in common with the markets their businesses purport serve.
One of them is a cool Denver-based startup called Zwaggle. Live since August, it’s a community exchange where parents swap toys and clothing for their children, for free. The two guys who founded it, Andrew Hoag and Adam Levy are both single swashbucklers with no parenting experience.
This might give pause to a weak-spined VC. But these two guys are smart as all get out, and–based on the response from my own friends and family who are parents and have checked out the site–Zwaggle has the potential to be very successful.
It’s really expensive to raise children: you have to buy all this high-priced stuff that the kids outgrow in a matter of months or weeks. Which is why parents have always recycled the big-ticket baby gear with one another, like car seats and cribs, and of course, clothes. It’s usually a friends and neighbors sort of thing.
But as Andrew put it to me recently over a dinner:

“Zwaggle just helps parents do something they’re already doing, only much more efficiently. We’re pounding the ebay model.”

Zwaggle makes it possible for parents to exchange car seats, cribs and much more — even a breast pump, which sounds gross, until you realize that this model costs upwards of $280 and likely won’t be covered by insurance. And as a durable good, it gets very little wear by each user. So why not extend the life of the product by passing it on? Best thing here: certain of the plastic pieces (tubbing, nipples, etc.) have to be replaced by each user for hygienic reasons = a nifty peripherals market for Zwaggle.
I think an efficiency model looks especially smart in a lagging economy. Who says you have to be a parent to comprehend a parent’s needs?
Zwaggle isn’t the only example of a founder demonstrating insight into a market he or she ought to know next-to-nothing about. (If you know of others, send us a note.) For now, this notion prompts our

Question of the Day: How important is it–really–for a founder to “know” his market? Under what circumstances can this old adage be abandoned? How do you know, when you “know enough” about a market? And if you’re like Andrew and Adam, who do you position this as an advantage to potential investors?

How China’s Great Firewall hurts China’s tech industry

WJA on the WallWhile visiting China to speak at an arts festival last month, I also filed a GigaOM story on HiPiHi, a start-up founded by one of the country’s top Internet entrepreneurs. Thanks to Om’s reputation, the article is easily the highest profile coverage yet for the upcoming “Chinese Second Life”, sure to be of great interest to investors and tech executives, most especially in China.

After it ran, however, I noticed one small problem with the piece. It can’t even be accessed in China.
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I’ve been assimilated by AT&T. Resistance was futile.

Att_horiz_color_lrgYes, the Borg AT&T has completed my assimilation and we are now one with the collective. Resistance was futile since I had a Verizon Wireless family plan with two lines and one T-Mobile plan in addition to my iPhone plan. Barb and I hit the AT&T store over the weekend and went through the dreaded porting process like two Klingons on a vegetarian diet: we feared the worst. The T-Mobile plan is history and with the $175 ETF, I ended up with a Dash that cost me $225 since I only paid $50 for it after rebate. It’s now unlocked and usable on the AT&T network, but those in the collective already knew that since we are one.

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There’s a RUN box in Windows Mobile!

I stumbled upon this and have to admit I did not know there is the equivalent of the Windows RUN dialog on Windows Mobile 5 & 6.  The RUN box is handy for running applications without going through the menu system and it turns out it works on most devices running those versions of Windows Mobile.  To invoke the Windows Mobile RUN box just hold down the ACTION key (usually the center button on the d-pad) and tap and hold the clock icon in the upper right corner of the screen.  When you do that you get this box:


This works on Professional (WM6) or Pocket PC (WM5) devices.

(via intomobile)

Debunking 5 Business Myths about Second Life

NBA IslandRecently Forbes featured a widely-cited article (reg. req.) on marketing in Second Life that was so spectacularly incorrect, it inspired me to whip up this reference guide, as the errors there keep cropping up elsewhere. As someone who worked for Linden Lab, consults on and is writing a book about Second Life, I have an obvious personal and professional interest in the topic. But what follows isn’t metaverse boosterism; it may very well be that Second Life is over-hyped or ill-conceived for business purposes. Even if so, however, it’s not due to the five provably bogus claims. [digg=]
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Mazda integrates camera in mirror, just days after I backed into the garage

Mazda_backupcameraAh, that’s OK, I don’t have a Mazda anyway and I’m selling the house so I can move to Korea for a Q1P Ultra with WiBRO. For the rest of you, there’s an integrated rear-view camera coming to the Mazda CX-9; you’ll see what’s behind your SUV right in the mirror. A 2.4-inch LCD screen will show you the kids bicycle just before it becomes a mangled pile of tubes, gears and rubber. Don’t worry, you won’t have a virtual picture-in-picture while driving forward; a transflective screen causes the image to fade away when you’re not in reverse. That’s actually too bad: I wouldn’t mind pretending I was in a Nextel Cup race with one of the bumper-cams they use. That feeling alone would be worth the $675!

(via Gadgetell)

Lenovo X60 Tablet gets a Core 2 Duo inside

Lenovo_x60GottaBeMobile eye-spied the update on the Lenovo X60 product page: if you want a Core 2 Duo in your X60 Tablet PC, it’s yours for the ordering. You’ll have to ante up anywhere from $25 to $225 for the updated CPU, depending on the clock speed, screen resolution and multi-touch functionality.

It’s also worth mentioning that Lenovo is offering a $400 savings on the X60 Tablet through April 16th. Details indicate that the Tablet price reflects a $300 discount in combination with a $100 discount of the X6 UltraBase. The UltraBase is an expansion dock that supports an optical drive, extra battery or hard drive, VGA out and more.

Qwest ready to sell itself

Qwest, after losing the battle for MCI is not averse to being taken out itself. “We’re looking at every opportunity as we look at the consolidation that is going on in our industry… And that’s all I’d better say about that,” Qwest chairman and CEO Richard Notebaert said at the Executives’ Club of Chicago. He also said he was frustrated by MCI’s unwillingness to take the Qwest offer seriously. But back to the buyout question. With $10.5 billion in debt, the company is still a high risk proposition for anyone to acquire. The best recourse for them would be to merge with Sprint’s local business, and try and add more heft to its operations by nibbling at smaller players. By doing so, it can make itself attractive enough for a decent offer from either BellSouth or SBC. The good news is that some of Q’s states have the new growth demographics working in their favor.

Nice plug today..

Red Herring has an interesting take on Blinkx and its 15-minutes of fame. They make a good point, but I still think blogs are an instant feedback loop for companies. This is real-time economy at work – producers and users are seperated by a few clicks.BlinkX has been listening to bloggers – who are essentially a distributed test lab – have to say, and incorporting them into its tool. With money they can scale their service, and it is a problem which even Google had to fix.

After a posting about Blinkx on GigaOm, an influential blog by technology writer Om Malik, sparked a new wave of media interest, the company decided to take a risk and strike while the irons were hot. It released its search tool earlier this month.