Robert Scoble talks startup innovation with Don Dodge


DON DODGE: Hey, I’m here with
Robert Scoble, the world famous Robert Scoble. Robert, you see hundreds
and hundreds of startups every year. What have you seen recently
that excites you? ROBERT SCOBLE: Well, I’m seeing
a range of things that I call context, contextual
software. And that includes wearable
sensors, it includes weird, new databases, like cloud-based,
that let you do writing and pulling out
of the data in 40 nanoseconds or less. It includes social software
like Facebook. Facebook is building an engine
where it brings you media based on who you are, and the
more you tell who you are, the better the media, and the
better the advertising. It includes these
Google glasses. Which really are about 18
months from now, maybe, somewhere in that range. A year to two years
away, right? But these are going to
have lots of sensors. They’re going to have a camera,
so I’m going to look at you, and maybe it’ll do face
detection on you, and say, Don Dodge, and your
Google+ account or your Facebook account. And they have a gyroscope,
right? So it can tell when I’m spinning
around or whatever. If I’m going skiing, it
has an accelerometer. It has a compass, so it knows
I’m looking at you, south, or east, or west, or whatever. And it has maybe some
other things. And it certainly has a
microphone and an earphone. It has GPS, so it knows I’m
standing here and you’re standing there. If we were both wearing glasses,
it would know where we are in space. So, where does that all go? And then, SRI is showing me
some stuff that’s going to turn into a new kind
of calendar. It’s going to look into your
Gmail and your Google Calendar and look for context. And what do I mean by that? If we’re setting up the meeting
for a week from now, and we’re going to email back
and forth, and we’re going say, hey, I want to meet with
you and talk about startups. Talk about startups? That’s context. And so, can it pull that
out and show it to me. Oh yeah, Don wanted to
talk about startups. I need to get ready
for this meeting. And maybe it’ll prompt me as,
hey, I need to get tuned up. I need to know what I’m talking
about so I know what this meeting’s about. Google Now is already showing
me that there’s a place for this new contextual world,
or smart notifications. Because it knows I’m going to
meet you in an hour, and it takes 49 minutes to drive there,
and maybe the traffic’s a little bit rough. It’s going to look up at the
traffic and the weather, and it’s going to tell me stuff
that I need to know. Hey, you better leave because
it’s raining. You better grab a jacket
because it’s raining. And you better and leave
now, because there’s an accident on the way. And so, it’ll know the context
of what we’re trying to do, and where I’m going
to do it with you. And it told me lots of stuff. So, there’s so much coming. There’s camera apps coming that
join our pictures just because we were in the
same space and we’re friends on Facebook. There’s new TV apps coming that
are for the iPad and show me TV based on our
liking behavior, both mine and my friends. Because my friends, if all my
friends like Mad Men, I’d better watch Mad Men, because
that’s important. So, all sorts of new stuff. It’s really cool. So I’m really alive. I’m really, like, oh man,
there’s something– there’s an age coming, and that’s why I’m
writing this book called The Age Of Context. DON DODGE: Excellent. So you see startups all over. Not just Silicon Valley,
but all over the place. Where are you seeing the
best innovations? ROBERT SCOBLE: Well, you know,
Silicon Valley is still– San Francisco, Silicon Valley,
San Jose, it’s still special. There’s no place like it. But geeks are centering around
innovation zones. You know, New York, Seattle. I’m going to Seattle
next week. Tel Aviv. Shenzhen, Shanghai,
and Beijing. After that, Berlin, London. After you name those six or
seven places, it gets tough to tell you where innovation’s
coming from. Maybe somewhere in Brazil. Maybe India. But after that, it’s really
tough in the world to say there’s good innovation
happening, there’s startups happening, there’s
an ecosystem of entrepreneurialism, there’s
something happening. It really happens in these
seven or eight ecozones– or, not ecozones. Entrepreneur zones. Tech zones. DON DODGE: So you try
lots of mobile apps. You’ve probably seen more
than most people. What are the top four or five
apps that you use all the time or that you love? ROBERT SCOBLE: I actually
have about 80. Because I deleted– I went through my iPhone and
I deleted all apps that I haven’t used in the
last month. But like, this app, iTranslate
voice through traveling. And you’re in a Spanish speaking
country, you can say, “Can you get me a beer, please?” Oh. “Can you get me a beer, please?”
Can you get me a beer, please? DON DODGE: Wow. ROBERT SCOBLE: And it says
it in Spanish, right? If I turn on my speaker, you
could actually hear that. What else? I use Waze while I’m driving
so I can see accidents in front of me. I use Instagram and Facebook
for photos, Facebook for keeping up with the world,
Twitter for studying my 33,000 friends in the tech industry who
are all talking talk about cats or whatever they
talk about. Flipboard for reading. Twitter because it filters it
and makes it beautiful, and it’s more understandable. Oh, God. On and on. I mean, I could go for an
hour talking about apps. Let’s just punch through
some of them. When I’m traveling, United
Airlines app. Hipmunk for finding flights. TripIt for telling me
information while I’m sitting in the plane. Hey, your plane just
got canceled. Or when I get to the rental
car agency, here’s your confirmation number. DON DODGE: So when you see a new
app that replaces or has some functionality similar to
what you already have, how does it get you over the edge
to say, all right, I’ll try it, or I’ll replace it? ROBERT SCOBLE: That depends. If it’s in a new place like
this translate app– first of all, this translate app
has a million users or 2 million users already before
I even found it. Part of why I listen to early
adopters is they tell me, hey, you should try this thing. Early adopters are out there
trying new things. I can’t see it all. I don’t have enough hours in the
day to try 600,000 apps, but I watch patterns
in my friends. What gets me over the hump? If it’s in a new space, if
it’s some app that does something radically new, it has
a lower bar, if it’s an app in a crowded space. For instance, if you were
pitching me a photo sharing app, it has to do something
mind blowing. Something I just didn’t
expect that’s magic, that’s different. Like, I saw one coming in a week
that automatically joins us together as we shoot pictures
in the same space. That’s different than
Instagram, right? Oh, OK. I can use that with my wife,
or I can use that taking pictures of you right
now, right? And it’ll do something mind
blowing, different, magic. DON DODGE: So every
startup wants to talk to Robert Scobel. Every startup wants you to use
their product and [INAUDIBLE]. ROBERT SCOBLE: And
Eric [INAUDIBLE] and you. DON DODGE: So how do
they get to you? ROBERT SCOBLE: There’s
500 people. It’s not just me. It’s 500 people who are like
tastemakers, who are early adopters, or who are insiders. How do I get you to give me
$100,000 for my new startup? It’s the same thing, and it’s
the same thought process. We’re looking for something that
nobody else sees, that is earlier, that’s different. DON DODGE: So how does
an unknown startup get to Robert Scobel? ROBERT SCOBLE: Call me. 425-205-1921. My phone number’s on my blog. It’s not hard. But you call me and
you go, hey, Scobel, I have this startup. Well, then what? You know? You have to have a story. DON DODGE: Right. So the pitch has to be a
two-minute pitch on what it is, how it works, why
it’s important. ROBERT SCOBLE: And why
you’re different. Hey, I have a photo
sharing app. I know you’ve seen Instagram
and Flickr and duh duh duh, the Facebook app, but I have
an app that does something that nobody else does. That’s the key. You have to know what
differentiates you from the crowd. Or, I have a 15-year-old female
founder, and she’s really cute. Some people pitch me that, and
sometimes that gets into the press, right? You have to know your story. The other day, an entrepreneur
picked me up in a [INAUDIBLE]. He said, you want to drive
a [INAUDIBLE]? Yeah, I do, actually. Another startup said, hey,
we got Cuban cigars. You want to get together and
have some Cuban cigars? Sure! DON DODGE: So good
brides help. ROBERT SCOBLE: Having a story
that gets attention, that gets me to not think of you as just
another schmo, helps. I’d rather see you have an
extraordinary product. But some of these startups
are seeing me early, and they want feedback. They want to know how
they fit into the– are they on the right track,
or do they have an idea that matters? And that’s cool, too. I mean, I actually like seeing
companies early, not because of me, but that tells me– like Instagram showed me three
months before they shared. Flipboard was like three
months before. Saluto was three months. Siri was six months, because
it slipped in the time that they came to my house
and showed it. But companies that do
that are better. And why? Because they’re showing
it around to people– not just me– they’re showing it around to
people, taking that feedback, and making the product better. And I also have more time
to think about it. It’s like, oh, Siri just showed
me this cool thing, and I had a story when the
embargo ended, right? And I had it written
out in my head. I could write it in 10 minutes,
because it was like I’ve been thinking about
for six months. It was playing in my head for
six months, and I was talking to other people about how
we fit into the world. And so, I had a really
a good story. If you call me an hour before
you launch, it’s like, what can I do? All I can do is rewrite
your press release. I don’t have any context
with you. I don’t know your team. I don’t know how this
fits into the world. I haven’t had any of the
reciprocity that other companies have put
into me so I feel emotionally tied to the product. So all that fits. There is no one thing that will
get somebody like me, or [? Errington, ?] or [INAUDIBLE] to talk about you. It’s a number of small, little
things, and I look at companies as a process, not
as a on-time event. If you getting in the New York
Times is going to make your company, you’re really screwed,
because getting Scobel to write about
you is not going to make your company. As egotistical and as
narcissistic as I am, it’s not going to make your company. Because if you don’t have a
great product, it doesn’t matter what I tell 101.9
million people. People are gonna try it
out and go, Scobel you’re full of it. DON DODGE: So how many new
products to you see each year? ROBERT SCOBLE: A better
question is how many each week. DON DODGE: Each week. OK, let’s start with
each week. ROBERT SCOBLE: Like, last
week was at least six. DON DODGE:. Six. ROBERT SCOBLE: So one
a day, at least. And I probably had twice
that many meetings. DON DODGE: Wow. And how many of those excite
you to the point that you’ll try it? ROBERT SCOBLE: Last
week, four. DON DODGE: Four? Out of six? ROBERT SCOBLE: Which is
extraordinary, because I haven’t been this excited
about the world in a long time. So, yeah. There’s something happening
in the world. There’s a new way, a new age
coming, this age of context. Sensors, maturing social
networks, right? New kinds of databases
that let us write and read in real time. There’s like five or six trends
like this that I’m seeing happen all at
the same time. And also, all these data silos
like Foursquare and Foodspotting and Spotify and
Facebook are all hooking together, are all coming
together, which means we’re going to see a new system come
down in the next two, three years that’s going to be
pretty mind blowing. DON DODGE: Well, it sounds like
the party is starting, so thank you very much
for the time. ROBERT SCOBLE: Yeah, baby! DON DODGE: Thank you, Robert.

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4 thoughts on “Robert Scoble talks startup innovation with Don Dodge

  1. I knew way back when Google was just starting out as a new search engine, I should have invested!! Take a look at you now!!! WOW
    Know Ive been with you Google since the beginning….and Im proud of what youve accomplished! You are blazing ahead to a new future for everyone!! To All Your Developers, A Fine Job youre doing!!!

  2. Honestly, it's very disappointing that Scoble gets so excited about bullshit like photo-sharing apps… Sounds like he's even looking for that crap!

    Maybe I should feel sorry for the guy for being inundated with so much crap that his internal barometer for what constitutes "innovation" is soooo low.

    –Steve Phillips, creator of non-bullshit (cryptographically secure chat, distributed computing, non-photo-sharing…)

  3. Robert, check out Speechy for WP7. My App does all that yours did but will also write it out and in the language desired BUT also has an OCR Camera translator. At the airport looking for B? Scan & Listen!

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