Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blog Post: Mobile & Big Business - Challenges Successes and Future Landscapes - February 28, 2012

We had a great turnout for our Mobile Cluster Roundtbale this morning at Microsoft NERD. Our moderator, Hyoun Park, Research Analyst, Collaboration and Intergared Communication at Aberdeen Group led a very interactive session. Click Here for Hyoun's presentation. Our panel of experts included Joshua Robin, Director of Innovation and Special Projects at the MBTA; Minerva Tantoco, Executive Director at UBS; and Andrew Yu, CEO of Modo Labs.

Perhaps the most unique mobile strategy belongs to the MBTA. The agency doesn't have the resources to keep up with the technology, so they've gone the route of opening their data for local and national developers to create apps based on their own, such as the T-on-Time, a mobile app for the commuter rail that provides real-time locations, a timer and a map for users. According to Josh, the MBTA's goal is to make the T ubiquitous and the way they do that is for riders to "Bring their own infrastructure". In the coming months or year, they hope to begin to integrate mobile payments as a way to bring both more customer satisfaction and also a way to decrease costs for the MBTA.

Minerva gave insights into how financial services firms begin the process of identifying their strategies and some of the challenges they are currently facing. For instance, does the customer demand and satisfaction outweigh the costs of development and management? Presently, mobile adoption is happening primarily within departments that are customer facing and therefore affecting profit. Also, she sees that enterprise will continue to make several smaller investments into their mobile strategies, versus large scale investments. And most mobile adoption within the enterprise is focused on the departments that are consumer facing.

Andrew believes that adoption of mobile within the enterprise is just beginning to scratch the surface and there is a great deal of opportunity to come. When discussing his healthcare clients, he describes how they are just starting to work with mobile in very simple ways, such as a patient having the ability to navigate to their doctor's office or around the hospital. In about a year, he predicts hospitals will begin to provide medical content on mobile devices, ultimately replacing pamphlets. A more difficult challenge healthcare providers will need to offer is searching for a doctor and the ability to make appointment through mobile devices. This not only poses a security problem, but a UI issue. Likely the last mobile offering from a healthcare provider will deal with personal health information and transactions, but again, they will eventually get there.

The discussion became more technical towards the 2nd half of the roundtable as the panel fielded questions surrounding native versus HTML5 and what trends they see. All in all, we saw that ultimately developing a hybrid approach would be the future for enterprise. The panel also felt that as web applications evolve, the biggest divide would not be a platform issue, but the ability for content to be produced at the rate that consumers want it.

To summarize from today's panel, there is no doubt that mobile for the enterprise will continue to evolve and as it does there is tremendous opportunity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Developers Found at Tech Tuesday

Last night's Tech Tuesday, Developers Wanted! held at Microsoft NERD, was a big hit. We had 275 attendees, many of those students! We had 23 exhibiting companies that demoed some of the cool technologies they are working on. The attendees enjoyed great demos (and lively music!) from our 23 exhibiting companies, a chance to catch up with peers and other students, and some tasty pizza!

For a complete list of exhibiting companies download our Rockstar Developers app,

Exhibitors and MassTLC members were given the opportunity to give 20-second "shout outs", which were really fun pitches on why they are the best companies to work for. Those that went over the 20-seconds were subjected to the infamous duck whistle!

Also highlighted in the evening was the launch of the MassTLC Ed Foundation Internship Program. In addition to an internship website, there will be some great Ed Foundation events taking place starting in June, stay tuned for more details!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Chalk Talk with the "Coach of Silicon Valley"

With our Annual Meeting, Accelerating the Next Technology Revolution less than three weeks away we're excited to welcome Bill Taylor, Co-Founder of FastCompany and author of Practically Radical, who will be leading our Fireside Chat with Bill Campbell, as a guest blogger. Read on for some great insights into what he and Campbell will cover at the event.

We look forward to seeing you all on March 7th!

Tom Hopcroft
President & CEO, MassTLC

by William C. Taylor

Apple and Google don't agree on very much these days, and Silicon Valley's top venture-capital firms spend most of their timing maneuvering against each other to fund the next generation of hot startups. But if there's one thing on which the hyper-competitive leaders of Silicon Valley can agree, it is on the unique role and vital contributions made by Bill Campbell, who may be the tech world's best-kept secret.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has said of Campbell, "His contribution to Google-it is literally not possible to overstate. He essentially architected the organizational structure." John Doerr, the legendary partner at VC giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, talks about Campbell this way: "Every person Bill has touched has been empowered to be the best he or she can be. He is my mentor." Steve Jobs once said of Campbell: "There’s something deeply human about him."

No wonder Fortune magazine has called Campbell "a quasi-religious force for good in Silicon Valley." Of course, most people who work with him simply call him "Coach." That's because Campbell began his leadership journey in the rough-and-tumble world of football, first as a player at Columbia University, then as an assistant coach at Boston College, then as head coach at Columbia for six years.

But Campbell eventually traded competition on the gridiron for competition in the trenches of technology. In 1983, John Sculley, then-CEO of Apple, recruited Campbell to Palo Alto. Thus began a nearly 30-year journey in which Campbell has run, coached, and worked with many of the most important and fascinating companies, entrepreneurs, and financiers in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Intuit. Apple. Google. Amazon. Kleiner. Andreesen Horowitz. Benchmark Capital. The one thing they all have in common? They've all called on Bill Campbell for his advice, counsel, and leadership insights.

On March 7, at the Mass TLC 2012 Annual Meeting, we'll get the chance to call on Bill Campbell's insights as well. I'm excited to be leading a "chalk talk" with the Coach of Silicon Valley, a session in which we'll encourage the audience to become a big part of the conversation. Sure, we'll talk about the world-famous companies and entrepreneurs with whom Campbell has worked. But we'll focus the conversation on how his knowledge and leadership savvy can improve how you work. What does it take to build a successful company? What does it mean to be an effective leader? What are the right ways to build productive teams? How do you know great people when you see them? What are the lessons all of us can learn from the biggest success stories in technology today?

Any successful venture begins with a clear definition of success. Our definition of success for this chalk talk is whether or not it delivers ideas, strategies, and lessons to help your success. I'm excited to hear what Bill Campbell is prepared to share. I hope you'll join the conversation.

William Taylor is the cofounder of Fast Company and bestselling author of Practically Radical.

Please click here to register for the Annual Meeting.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to satisfy the demand for Big Analytics on Big Data? Different approaches showcase the strength of Big Data Industry in Massachusetts.

On February 15th I attended the The Big Data Disruption Summit at the appropriately named Microsoft NERD, in the high tech glass building overlooking Charles River and Boston.

Big Data clearly has a lot of buzz this year, and is approaching the top of the hype cycle according to Gartner. MassTLC's recent report Big Data and Analytics: A Major Market Opportunity for Massachusetts, identified 100+ Big Data related companies in Massachusetts.

The meeting was packed with business leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and those data scientists that were present were very much in demand.

The event was opened by Dr. Michael Stonebraker, a leading database researcher for over 30 years and a serial entrepreneur - he started several successful database companies including Ingres, Illustra, Vertica, VoltDB, and most recently Paradigm4. Michael succeeds at doing several things at once, so some described him as a "parallel" entrepreneur. Click Here to view Michael's presentation on 'What is Big Data'.

After an overview of the 3 Vs of Big Data: Volume, Velocity, and Variety, Stonebraker argued that the focus of analytics in the past was "Little Analytics" on Big Volume, like finding an average closing price of MSFT on all trading days in the last 3 years - a request easily expressed in SQL.

Now there is demand for "Big Analytics" on Big Data, which may include complex math operations, such as machine learning or clustering. Dr. Stonebraker argued that most of these can be specified as linear algebra operations on array data. A typical inner loop in such algorithms may include matrix multiplication, SVD decomposition, or linear regression.

He gave an example of Big Analytics, where you need to compute a covariance between closing prices of stocks, and covariance which can be expressed easily as array operations, but not so easily in SQL. Imagine computing covariance for all pairs of stocks on NY Stock exchange for the last 1000 days. If you could do this, then do it for hourly prices, etc. Click Here to view Michael Stonebraker's presentation on 'How to do Complex Analytics.'

Christopher Ahlberg, CEO of Recorded Future (and co-founder of Spotfire, sold to Tibco in 2007) talked about the unstructured web as the most compelling source of predictive information. He described a project where they are monitoring South American Cities for potential unrest by scanning documents from 70,000 sources, with the need to visualize the results quickly. He described the evolution of their architecture from a key value store to mongoDB + sphinx. They have many users in finance, and interestingly, processing the overnight accumulation of information is very important for the trading signal in the first second of trading in New York.
Other speakers in the first panel outlined different approaches. Fritz Knabe of Netezza talked about new possibilities enabled by rapidly falling price of flash storage. When terabytes of memory is about $1000, much different and faster architectures become possible. However, the seamy underside of advent of flash is that the bottleneck moves from storage to power supply. This leads to interesting ideas like microservers, which have 8 servers on one board. Click Here to view Fritz's presentation.

Mark Watkins, co-founder of Goby and currently General Manager, Entertainment Content at Telenav, talked about mobile applications. His company is a pioneer in location services and providing a traffic-aware routing engine, which learns from traffic behavior. He also described an already deployed mobile recommendation system at Telenav, which can recommend interesting restaurants, events, and activities to you based on your interests and the data it has. Click Here to view Mark's presentation.
The first half was followed by the keynote presentation by Deepak Advani, Vice President, Business Analytics, Products and Solutions, IBM. He gave a very good overview of the many use cases where analytics and IBM technology produces good results, from IBM Watson technology now being applied to improve health care diagnoses, to The Oscar Senti-meter which provides sentiment analysis of Twitter messages about Oscar nominations. Click Here to view Deepak's presentation.

The second half of the event was focused on case studies of 4 start-ups and their learning experiences and challenges, with Andy Palmer, Startup Specialist serving as the moderator.

Kicking off the panel was Bill Simmons, CTO, DataXu. He talked about how their company tracks ad performance by using anonymous cookies. They build models to predict which ad impressions will lead to purchasing activity, and this is hard because for a million impressions there may be only hundreds of purchases (a very unbalanced class distribution). However, the ad cost is low and the economics work as their model is 2-3 times more accurate than random ads. Their software stack includes Hadoop, Hive, Postgres, Hbase, and Greenplum.

Alan Hoffman, Founder & President, Cloudant, talked about his experience as a physicist where he dealt with GB/sec of particle data. His company provides a noSQL data layer service and uses couchdb. He suggested there is no big magic solution to Big Data, but lots of small useful solutions.

Puneet Batra, Chief Data Scientist, Kyruus also has a physics background. Kyruus wants to provide rating information for providers - see Kyruus Aims to Become the Bloomberg for Hospitals.

George Radford, Field CTO, EMC Greenplum talked about adjusting to EMC acquisition of Greenplum. He commented that the last thing you want to do with big data is move it.
Andy Palmer wrapped the session emphasizing the need to think about a continuous upgrade path. Since design patterns in the system change rapidly, he argued for an MPP shared nothing architecture which scales well.

I asked the panel if they thought the potential of Big Data was overhyped.

Bill Simmons (DataXu) said that their method works and is able to improve accuracy by a factor of 2 to 3. However, the cost also need to be considered - what works in the US, where media is expensive, would not be cost-effective in China where media is cheap. Puneet Batra (Kyruus) suggested that one of the results of big data would be exposing bad decisions done without it and may will bring more rationality into business decisions.

Another question was whether as a result of changes in privacy practices driven by Facebook, we will see changes in medical privacy as more medical data becomes available for sharing. The panel felt it was more likely that personal medical data was the Quantified Self movement.

The meeting had a lot of energy and showcased the depth of Big Data Industry in Massachusetts. New ideas will likely percolate to new start-ups!

Guest Blogger Gregory Piatetsky, Editor, KDnuggets (twitter: @kdnuggets)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

PAX East Makes Decade-Long Commitments to Massachusetts

Reed Exhibitions and Penny Arcade Expo, the organizers of the giant PAX East digital games convention, announced a deal to keep the convention in Boston and to contribute $325K to the Mass Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) at Becker College over the next decade.

MassTLC participated in the announcement and applauded the deal citing the need to "double down" on our strengths -- like our vibrant digital games community -- in order to achieve MassTLC's 2020 Challenge of creating 100K new technology jobs over the coming decade.

PAX East came to Boston's Hynes Convention Center two years ago and last year moved to the Boston Convention & Expo Center. The 2012 PAX East Conference will be held April 6-8th and is expected to attract over 70,000 digital game executives, developers, and enthusiasts.

MassTLC celebrates Digital Games in Massachusetts each year with the PAX East "Made in MA" party hosted by the Council's Digital Games community. The event not only brings together the games developer community from across the country but puts a spotlight on all game companies in the area to showcase the depth and breadth of our local industry to a worldwide audience. The event takes over the Microsoft NERD center and sells out with more than 1200 developers, games executives and media from across the country. Registration for this year's event can be found here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Maximizing Engineering Productivity - a peer to peer discussion

The MassTLC software development community met at VMware in Cambridge for a well-facilitated conversation on maximizing engineering productivity. Brad Meiseles, Director of Engineering at VMware and Susan Rossnick, VP of Engineering at Kronos lead the discussion with about 40 techies from companies such as GSN, DYN, ZoomInfo, new big data player Kyruus and start-up Incrwd. Brad kicked off the conversation with a short presentation filled with witty quotes. Take a look here. The hot topic of the night was around establishing a work environment for success. From bright colored, open environments, big headphones and red lights to remove interruptions, no meeting Wednesday’s at VMware and huddle rooms at the new Black Duck location in Burlington, the conversation was varied. However, most agreed that it is necessary to consider different work styles and personalities.

The conversation moved on to productivity, the use of SCRUM and measurement. There were strong opinions in the room on either jump in full force with SCRUM or DON’T! Following the rules is key to its success.

We are looking next at a seminar focused either on culture (which is a continuous discussion for this group!), fostering and realizing a culture of quality, continuous intergartion or SCRUM. Any thoughts on what would interest you and your team? Please drop me an email at

Friday, February 3, 2012

Finding, Ranking and Tracking the Online Influencers Important to Your Business

It was a great turn-out for this week's social media seminar focused on online influencers. Finding them isn't necessarily the hard part, it's getting them in your court to help promote your business. Mike Troiano @miketrap from Holland-Mark compared it to a cocktail party saying "it's the approach that matters". You can't just walk up to them and sell your services, it takes time and tact to make a good connection.

Pierre-loic Assayag, CEO and Founder from Traackr, kicked off the morning and shared results from a survey they conducted. He also shared the "10 commandments to influencer communication". Check out his presentation here.

Alan Belniak, Director of Social Media at PTC and Erica Ayotte, Social Media Manager at Constant Contact presented case studies on how they are working with online influencers to support their business. Both presentations can be found on Slideshare: Erica's presentation, Alan's presentation

Next, Mike Troiano from Holland-Mark shared his expertise from the agency side. He said there are 5 key steps to influencer management:
1. decide who you're talking to.
2. listen to learn how you can help them.
3. deliver content that does so.
4. build a relationship over time.
5. ask for what you want.

Mike's presentation is available for download here.

The presentations were excellent but the Q&A session is where the best practices and tips for success were shared. Thanks to all that joined in the discussion. If you would like to be part in the next discussion, please take this short survey and let us know what you would like to see next!