Hopefully this comes as no surprise to many, but for some, alas, I am afraid they have yet to get the email. It’s yet another case of the 1% versus the 99%. Only one percent of Web app developers have made any real money, the other ninety-nine percent are SOL. Forty-seven percent of those, make absolutely no money or less than $100 on their app. Not surprisingly there are now over a million apps on the Apple store, and when you add all of the other sources for apps, you can see that the problem is coming to a head. I saw this coming over two years ago and wrote about the problem on this blog, citing a New York Times story published about that time, describing the dark underbelly of the Web app development culture. In a satire of the problem, last year The Onion published a gag story about a new app called “Squander” that enabled users to “geolocate others nearby who had also wasted $2 on the same app.”


Over a year ago now someone on the UBC campus, who was thinking of developing an app, told me about this cool application for capturing cards into your contacts by photographing them on your smart phone. It was Cardmunch. It turned out that the application was only available on the iPhone at that time, but as luck would have it, the company had just been acquired by LinkedIn. Voila! It would obviously only be a few months at most before I could obtain it for my Samsung Android smart phone, right? Wrong. That was over a year ago.


I have a UBC Management student who is an excellent coder. He picked up his skills on his own, probably as far back as junior high school. But in talking with him now, he says that he hates coding. I told him that was perfectly normal and acceptable. Not everyone is cut out to be hacker. But I did emphasize to him that his experience and skills in the world of software would serve him well in his management career. It is my firm belief that not enough emphasis is placed on these skills in the Brave New World of management, rapidly morphing into one Big Data, Cloud, and Smart Mobile hairball. We can argue when, where and by whom it should be taught, but I urge all of my students to consider developing some of these skills, as being important to their management success. In the attached HBR Blog Network article below, students were polled as to the usefulness of one Harvard basic undergraduate course in computer science. My most important take away from that poll was the response from many students, that while they could not code and were not particularly technical, taking the course improved their confidence in dealing with engineering types, software development issues, the Web, and technical computing matters generally. I had the great good fortune to begin my career in the early days of Intel, but without any technical training. I thank my lucky stars for the education that Intel provided me. That kind of process is no longer feasible.


Microsoft Missed Key Strategic Inflection Points. Much has been written this week about the announcement from Steve Ballmer that he will resign from Microsoft within a year. Microsoft shares bounced upward on the news, giving an indication of investor sentiment, which might have been expected to drive the stock down. Some bloggers have commented with praise on his 13 years as President of Microsoft. But no less than Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, who also writes for All Things D, quietly tweeted an endorsement of the blog post below by Lauren Goode at “All Things D.” Goode chronicles the major product and strategic events over Ballmer’s helmsmanship of Microsoft. Perhaps the most glaring blunder has to be also the most recent: Windows 8.


New Penguin 2.0 Google Search Engine Results Page is a boon for small local businesses. Find out how to exploit this new SEO local search engine results (SERP) feature.


Creating open industry standards always wins, by creating a larger market for all competitors and platforms. This story has been repeated endlessly in technology markets. You would think after so many proprietary failures, it wouldn’t keep repeating itself. HTML5 appears to be another case where an open industry standard has again created a win-win for all involved, including consumers.


tophat
A couple of weeks ago I was asking myself about the current “clicker” classroom participation technology at UBC.  Why did the university implement a proprietary technology with no other practical use, which cost students precious dollars?  It was instantly obvious to me that the students already owned the devices needed to accomplish electronic classroom participation: their smartphones, tablets and laptops.  Even more compelling for me, it could provide a way to reduce the classroom distractions caused by these devices.  It turns out that the reason that the students devices were not being exploited for teaching and learning was fear of “the cloud,” privacy and where the data was being stored, which are legitimate concerns.  It turned out that there is a Canadian company that has created an app that does everything I envisioned and solved all the privacy issues to the satisfaction of a number of educational institutions in British Columbia and across Canada. I am now a trial use of Top Hat Monocle and I am very impressed with it.  I went so far as to introduce one of  Top Hat’s marketing people to the UBC Vancouver IT expert on apps like this.  It is my hope that Monocle can be a breakthrough application for classroom use.
Classroom participation startup Top Hat Monocle strengthens its team with addition of elite CFO and CPO (via Pando Daily)

Toronto-based classroom education startup Top Hat Monocle takes a contrarian position on students’ smartphones. Rather than insist that they put them away, which we all know is a losing proposition, the company uses the devices to drive engagement and participation. Today, the company has beefed up its executive team, announcing the addition Ralf Riekers as its new Chief Financial Officer and Malgosia Green as its Chief Product Officer.

Riekers was the first employee at marketing automation startup Eloqua, where he spent 12 years in areas including finance, operations, product deployment, and customer operations. Eloqua was recently acquired by oracle for $871 million four months after its IPO. At Top Hat, he will focus on improving the company’s back-end processes and managing relationships with the venture community.

Green founded India-based education marketing firm Savvica in 2007 to help students worldwide choose schools to match their needs, and before that was the director of product development for Affinity Labs. At Top Hat Monocle, she will take over the product road map and also promises to “aggressively market” the company’s products.

Top Hat Monocle offers allows students to respond in real-time to instructor questions and polls using their Web-enabled mobile devices. They can also use these second screens – assuming the teacher’s black board or projection screen is the first – to engage in interactive discussions, pose their own questions, download notes, and submit work, among other functions. The company’s products are used at over 250 universities worldwide.

Following an $8 million Series A financing in July from Emergence Capital PartnersiNovia CapitalSoftTech VC, Golden Venture Partners, and Version One Ventures, and the company raised a subsequent $1.1 million strategic round in January, bringing its total financing to $10.7 million. The Top Hat Monocle team has since explode from 20 to 80 employees in the last nine months. According to COO Andrew D’Souza, we should expect additional high profile hires in the near future, including specifically a VP engineering, VP sales, and VP marketing.

Ask any investor or experienced entrepreneur and they’re likely to tell you that success is dictated more by the team that is leading a company than by the idea or the market itself. Top Hat Monocle has the benefit of being in a space that is ripe for disruption, at a time when investors and educators are desperately seeking solutions. Today’s announcements should only strengthen the company’s ability to execute on this massive opportunity.