Pebble Technology and its “Watch” — A Start-up Surging with Elasticity

With thousands of others, I just became an official backer on Kickstarter of the Pebble, a watch, really a wearable computing device that interfaces seamlessly, conveniently, and wirelessly  with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS phones.

Over the past two months I’ve written twice about wearable computing – coming from mainline firms, Nike (the FuelBand) and Google (Google glasses). Nike and Google are well-established elastic enterprises and benefit from the elasticity that they have built into their companies. Their wearable devices add new levels of engagement and options for  their huge base of customers.

But Pebble Technology, the maker of Pebble, is a startup.  It also has a noteworthy distinction: it raised over $1 Million dollars from supporters on Kickstarter in 28 hours – for a product that is not yet in production.   But a snappy video and a low-key pitch inspired thousands to make an “investment.”  The Pebble folks also smartly provided “investors” with various contribution options, from a minimum of $99 to a high of $10,000, but each level will receive 1 or more Pebble watches when they are produced sometime in the fall of 2012. Continue reading

The City as a Platform

Kudos to O’Reilly Radar for its recent coverage of New York as a business (or Governance) platform. Like most people who cover this area, O’Reilly’s first up coverage is about data – but data is just the juice, the oil or gas. What it’s powering is a platform that allows highly scaled interactions – in this case between 4 million people who have an opportunity to re-set the way New York is run on a day-to-day basis.

That idea of ‘running’ a city is a big re-frame project. City officials, in the platform era, don’t run the city in the way conventionally understood. Continue reading

Introduction

The Strange Case of Companies that Grow in Recession

From 2007 and the onset of recession a small group of companies began enjoying exceptional sales and profit growth. Companies like Apple and Amazon.com to name just two. They didn’t just grow. They didn’t just begin to enjoy their best ever years. More significantly, they began performing like no other company before them.

Apple’s revenues in the third quarter of its 2010-2011 fiscal year were up 82% and profits were up 125%. This would be a supreme achievement at any time but the summer of 2011 was not a holiday period, where sales tend to be strong. And the economy still teetered on the edge of recession.

Apple was not just succeeding wildly. On the way to record profits, Steve Jobs’ team had created monumental disruption in a product category (smartphones) that the company had inhabited for a total of only four years. Shortly after entering smartphones, Apple created a new product category (tablets) single handedly with the launch of the iPad.

This was unusual success heaped on top of astonishing corporate performance.

In Amazon’s case, there is a similar tale of total novelty. With the launch of the Kindle ebook reader, the online retailer suddenly converted itself into a device company, a move that would normally spell chaos. At the same time Amazon also pioneered what became known as “platform as a service” and “cloud computing”, a revolution in how companies source their IT needs. Like Apple it opened new horizons for itself during the recession by doing what companies should not do – move into adjaceny markets with entirely new products.

In 2010/2011 Amazon’s revenues from its consumer electronics business line surged 69%, during an extremely weak recovery from recession. The remarkable feature of Amazon’s growth is that its profits briefly fell during the period, yet its share price rose. Barron’s called it a “religion stock”, one you believe in or don’t.

So why do people believe, and what is it people believe in? What is the bigger story behind these and similar successes?
Continue reading