Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A plug for Eventbrite event management services

I've been planning the retirement dinner of Weston Wrestling Coach Dave Baldanza and assistant Kevin Thomas. I think event planning has been interesting evolution on the web. I've used some rather forgettable ticket management services over the years. I've found one that I think is fairly good at this point: Eventbrite.

It's very easy and intuitive to use, has great functionality to get the word out about the event and fantastic reporting capabilities.

It does cost a bit more than I would like it to (2.5% is fair for EventBrite, but then Paypal takes another sizable chunk out of it.) If a ticketer could integrate their own deposit account without Paypal taking a huge chunk, that would be a big deal for me. I imagine that would be a huge selling point for event planners as well. When you're dealing with enough events and transactions, it works out.

Nevertheless, EventBrite is a really well done service and I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

China Lab Coverage in the China Daily

Our project in Guangzhou for Exception de Mixmind was mentioned in the China Daily. MIT is pretty good at getting us press. This was a cool project and it's neat to be mentioned in a prestigious Chinese national paper.

I get quoted spewing some consultant-speak:

"Theodore Chan, a "China lab" project member from MIT, said: "You must listen to the market's voice."

He also added that "you must know whether European and US customers like the garments' style or not. If they don't, the design has to undergo adequate changes to adapt to the market's preference".

Yep, statements like that are why the ladies love me and I get fist bumps from Warren Buffett.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Warren Buffett Trek

Last week, I went to meet Warren Buffett on a MIT Sloan Trek. I lucked out and ended up getting to have lunch with Warren. Mr. Buffett was incredibly generous with his time. He is truly an generous, humble and caring man beyond his skill as a capitalist. It was amazing how kind he treated the students who came to see him. He spent all day with us and joined the MIT group for dinner. There are a few pearls that I will try to write up once I get caught up, but for now, here's a really cool picture I got with him.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Give your hangers to local dry cleaners to help the environment

This is a small way to help the environment, but it may resonate with the primary readers of this blog. After all, most of us have pretty hefty dry cleaning bills. We had a ton of coat hangers piled up from years of dry cleaning and buying clothes. It must have been nearly 100, no insubstantial amount in terms of plastic and metal that would have clogged a landfill for a thousand years.

We took them over to a local Vietnamese dry cleaner, who gladly accepted them for re-use. While the big chain we sometimes use generally has their own branded hangers (the metal ones with a paper wrap), the small ones are glad to cut their costs by re-using your old hangers.

We all have to chip in any way we can!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"An idea is worth more than a factory"

"An idea is worth more than a factory."

-Mario Moretti Polegato, CEO of Geox at MIT Sloan on April 9th, 2008

Today, we were lucky enough to have Mario Moretti Polegato, another great speaker arranged by Ed Roberts.

Mr. Polegato is the founder of Geox, the Italian shoe company that is a hot topic in business circles as it prepares to take on the big boys in the shoe business.

His talk was an fascinating one as it illustrates how unique Geox is in the realm of European companies. Geox itself was born out of an innovation to create a breathable rubber sole. The technology combined a membrane that allows water vapor (i.e. sweat) out, but doesn't allow water from the outside in. This works because water droplets are 700 times the size of water vapor particles. If you have something in between those sizes, you have a breathable waterproof sole.

Polegato said Geox invests about 3% of turnover in R&D each year - a pretty high number for a apparral company given their revenue is around $1.2 billion. They hold 35 patents and believe their competitive advantage comes from a combination of the technology and the design assets they have access to being based very fortunately out of Milan, Italy. In addition, Geox invests heavily in human capital development and university relationships, two things you don't normally think of shoe companies as doing.

Polegato joked about great Italian "innovations" turning into amazing American businesses - pizza (he cited Pizza Hut as a generic example) and espresso (Starbucks) as examples. He said was glad to be the one to successfully commercialize an Italian innovation in this case.

He's a very witty and charismatic guy, even in his second language, with a strong commitment to innovation. I can see why his products have been so widely successful. I actually haven't tried Geox shoes out, but after meeting Mr. Polegato, I'd very much like to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ray Stata on building an innovative organization

Last week, Ed Roberts brought in yet another great speaker in Ray Stata, the founder and currently Chairman of Analog Devices. Mr. Stata gave an inspiring talk about his willingness to take risks and stand by his vision for the product and how he saw the market evolving.

Here were his 7 points about creating an innovative organization that were quite eloquently stated:

-Create a pioneering spirit
-Create market leadership through innovation
-Create an environment that encourages innovation
-Make engineers full business partners
-Demonstrate that innovation matters
-Risk is inherent in technology strategy
-Programs fail, not people.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Looking at income inequality in the developing world

One of the things discussed is the growing income inequality in China, despite it being a Communist state. This certainly dovetails with my recent experience in Guangzhou. In the south of China, there are really no noticeable vestiges of Communism whatsoever. I saw way more Nationalist memorials (Sun Yat-Sen) than Mao.

Recently, I've been looking at Gini Coefficients, per a discussion we had in a seminar that compares the economies China and India that I'm taking.
I won't bother you with the details of how to calculate a Gini Coefficient. But the basic idea is that a low Gini coefficient means more equal wealth distribution. A high Gini coefficient means greater inequality in the distribution of wealth.

China is at 46.9, the United States is at 45. This means that Communist China has greater income disparity than the United States by at least one measure. The half-decent (albeit somewhat inefficient) welfare programs in the US mean that even the poor can have a sniff of decent consumer products and foodstuffs. In China, those who are poor are devastatingly poor. There is no evidence of the Iron Rice Bowl.

Overall, looking down the list of Gini coefficients is pretty interesting. They're low in Western Europe and extremely high in Africa. The European Union as a whole is at 30.7. Sweden and Denmark, both extremely wealthy countries compared to the rest of the world, are at 23 and 24 respectively.

At the other end are places like Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana. Closest to home here in the US is Haiti at 59.2, 7th from the bottom. The Economist made some good observations about Haiti this month. It's in bad shape and only getting worse - 21% of its GDP is remittances from the now slumping US. It imports its oil and food, which is terrible with these prices rising through the roof.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Swarthmore #1 in Kiplinger's College Rankings

My alma mater Swarthmore ranked #1 in Kiplinger's Liberal Arts College Rankings. Of course, I still believe school rankings are pretty stupid and people ought to look at the micro-attributes of schools to figure out what's right for them. Nevertheless, I can't resist the opportunity for a shameless plug for a school that really does deliver an magnificent educational experience.