Developing Nations and Tech: Cell Phone Minutes as Currency

Posted on June 13, 2007
Filed Under Microfinance, Business | 1 Comment

I read about an interesting idea the other day centered around microfinance and developing Third World nations (yes, I forgot where I read about this and trying to remember is killing me). The idea was that cell phone minutes could be used as currency in developing nations.

The thesis behind the idea goes something like this: while banks, banking services, credit cards and ATMs are basically non-existent in the rural parts of developing nations cell phones are becoming more and more prevalent. Therefore, since the cell phone minutes hold a value of some sort they could be used as currency. All one would have to do is create a system that would allow people exchange those minutes easily, preferably via the cell phone itself, and an instant “banking” system would be born.

I find that idea fascinating for a couple reasons:

1. It is so easy to implement (relatively).
2. The impact would be huge (especially as more and more folks get cell phones).

Of course this idea makes a lot of sense in developing nations but I wonder if it makes a lot of sense in developed countries like the U.S. I can see one domestic use for a system like this already. Kids.

As a parent it could be pretty compelling to allow your kids x number of cell minutes a month that they can either use to call/text their friends and/or use as currency at the local mall.

Of course I generally think getting them one of the fixed credit cards (i.e. they can only spend the amount that their parents put on it) makes a lot more sense in terms of teaching kids about the value of money and how to manage it but nonetheless the cell phone minutes as currency idea is still interesting.

Can you think of any other domestic uses of the cell phone minutes as currency idea?

Thoughts on Networking: Fun is Key

Posted on June 12, 2007
Filed Under Business, Networking | 3 Comments

I don’t know about you but when I hear the word networking I think of Keith Ferrazzi’s portrait of the “networking jerk.” That is to say I think of people crammed into a beige room all trying to hand out as many business cards as they can while continually looking for the next best person to talk to. Unfortunately I think this type of scenario still occurs all too frequently and I am not convinced it does anyone much good.

In my mind the true key to solid “networking” is to have fun with people and become genuine friends with them.

Frank and I based TECH cocktail on that belief and the event has grown like crazy. People from other cities have even started to e-mail us asking when we’ll be doing a TECH cocktail in their city.

Sure, that’s great and all but does any business get done as a result of TECH cocktail? (I love asking myself questions in posts.) The answer is a resounding yes.

I know numerous people who have found great employees, great jobs, co-founders and friends they can work on projects with. I’m also sure that VCs may find some deals within the TC crowd if it hasn’t happened already.

More and more events are now popping up that center on fun with networking as an afterthought. One of my favorite is the Labor vs. Capital dodgeball game that my friend David Hornik co-hosted recently.

The basic gist of that event was that VCs would play entrepreneurs in dodgeball while on trampolines (hey, who doesn’t like a good tampoline playing surface). As you can see from the video on Jason Shellen’s blog it seems to have been a big success although it remains to be seen if the embattled VCs will ever fund anyone from the Labor team ever again. Kidding of course (or am I…). I definitely think that the same good business connections will come of that dodgeball game even though networking wasn’t the focus.

Hopefully we’ll see more fun events going forward as I believe they are the future of networking. Ultimately you work with people you like (if at all possible) and I’m not sure you can start to be friends with people through business card exchanges alone.

Side note: Who’s up for a TECH cocktail softball game this summer? Maybe we could do the Labor vs. Capital thing or Web vs. other tech.

Side note to the side note: You can’t spell funding without fun. Think about it.

FBLA-PBL Contest in Need of Judges in Chicago

Posted on June 12, 2007
Filed Under Chicago, Business | 2 Comments

I was made aware of a day of competitions that the FBLA-PBL (Future Business Leaders of America - Phi Beta Lambda) is putting on via a friend of mine. Turns out they are in need of some tech related judges for some of the competitions. I have a soft spot for the FBLA as I founded the chapter at my high school (Shepherd Hill Regional - Go Rams!) so I have agreed to sit in as a judge on either the E-Business or Web Site Development competitions (still waiting to hear which one works for my schedule). Here are the details and the slots they need to fill:


Digital Video Production (8:00 - 3:00 presentation) - 6 judges needed

E-Businesses (12:30 - 6:00 presentation) - 2 judges needed

Multimedia (8:00 - 3:00 presentation) - 6 judges needed

Web Site Development (8:00 - 1:30 presentation) - 1 judge needed (that’ll probably be me though)

Event Details:

Location: Hyatt Regency on 151 E. Wacker.

Date: Friday, June 29th

Perks: Judges get a parking voucher, breakfast (if you have any early panel) and lunch.

This is a great chance to give back to the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs so I hope some of you out there will do this with me. If you’re interested in being a judge please shoot me a note (eric [at] and I’ll get you the judge form (takes 30 seconds to fill out) and the contact info of the person you should e-mail it to. End of PSA…

TECH cocktail Update

Posted on June 10, 2007
Filed Under TECH cocktail | Leave a Comment

TECH cocktailI am sure some of you out there are wondering what the recent events happening in my professional life mean for TECH cocktail and I am happy to say that we fully intend to keep growing it into new cities and within our existing markets; Chicago and Washington D.C. Frank and I have also expanded the ability for TECH cocktailers to network in between events as of late.

As most of your know we have a TECH cocktail LinkedIn group (which is now 422 strong and growing every day) and we have recently added a Facebook group to the mix. The Facebook group will add to the between party interaction by allowing TCers to start threads on the discussion board, add pictures and write on the wall. It will also help TCers from different cities get to know each other.

Frank and I are very excited about the future of TECH cocktail. With Chicago and D.C. cruising and a new event in the works in Boston we’re really starting to realize our mission of bringing events to under served technology hubs and amplifying the tech signal in those areas.

The FOOA Conference: Advertising Pricing Models

Posted on June 10, 2007
Filed Under Web, Web 2.0, Media, Media 2.0 | 2 Comments

FOOAI attended the Future of Online Advertising conference in NYC this past Thursday and one of the topics was advertising pricing models on the web. We’ve all heard the debate before. Should CPM, CPC, CPA, CP whatever be the pricing model? What model is the most efficient? Luckily Kim Malone of Google tackled the subject in her presentation and I think what she said made a lot of sense (and no, it’s not because I work for Google now - thought I should throw in the disclaimer).

She looked at the three main online ad models of CPM, CPC and CPA and discussed how they all make sense depending on what it is the advertiser is looking to accomplish. Kim looked at the pricing models as a funnel where CPM was at the top of the funnel (reach a ton of people to build brand) and CPA was at the end of the funnel (reach the folks looking to buy the product/service now). The basic idea was this:

CPM should be used if the advertiser is simply trying to make people aware of their products and services (i.e. build their brand). CPC should be used if people are aware of the product/service and the advertiser is looking for people to take some sort of action (visit the website, fill out a survey, etc.). CPA should be used if the advertiser is only interested in creating conversions (sales) and is not very interested in extending awareness of their brand.

That is an over simplification of course but you get the idea. All of the pricing models work together to help advertisers achieve what they need to achieve so the arguments over whether or not CPM makes sense and if CPA is the new CPC are simply non-issues. The ad pricing model really all depends on what the advertiser is trying to accomplish at a given time (and on what the media type is - i.e. CPM tends to work best in feeds as feeds are a brand building media).

Movie Review: The Fountain

Posted on June 10, 2007
Filed Under Movie Reviews | Leave a Comment

The FountainTo say I was excited to see The Fountain would be an understatement. Not only did this film look like a very interesting one from the start but it was also directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream and Pi). I love Darren’s previous stuff so I thought this would be no different and it wasn’t for the most part.

The film was well done in terms of effects, acting, music and cinematography (the lighting is great in particular as it parrallels Hugh Jackman’s character’s move from the dark to the light) but the story was lacking. This surprised me as Aronofsky is generally great at storytelling and since this was another situation in which he both wrote and directed the piece I expected it to be on par with his other work. My theory as to what happened here is that a lot of the film ended up on the cutting room floor due to studio constraints.

With the film tackling the subjects of life, death, love, spirituality and our existence in this world the 96 minute run time was just not enough. This film would have been much better if it was allowed to sit in a 2 to 2.5 hour time frame and I think that is probably how Aronofsky would have wanted it. Perhaps he’ll put out a directors cut someday so we can see the full piece in all its glory.

Either way I praise Aronofsky for being willing to take chances and expand the bounds of cinema. A lot of directors are OK with simply churning out the regular stuff and that’s a shame. The film wasn’t horrible in its final state and I would urge folks to check it out if only to see what groundbreaking cinema could be coming their way in the future.

I’m now a Googler

Posted on June 1, 2007
Filed Under FeedBurner | 6 Comments

Check out the FeedBurner blog for more on this. I have to catch a flight home to Massachusetts now for my sister’s high school graduation but I’ll hopefully be able to write more on this later. Needless to say I’m super excited.

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