The Conference on World Affairs (http://www.colorado.edu/cwa) has come and gone. It's a wonderful resource for Boulder and the University of Colorado. Attendance for the week-long event was pegged at 50,000, made up of both students and community members. My time was mostly spent making sure my panels ran smoothly, but I did have the opportunity to take a few notes. One such panel, "Are You There, Hal? Interaction Between Humans and Machines," featured human-machine interface expert Paul Andres, web pioneer and open source expert Paul Jones, and tech journalist Andy Ihnatko.
Paul Andres said that intelligence is going to be built into all devices and they will be able to talk to each other. It will be more accurate to talk about machine competence than machine intelligence. It won't be Hal the computer, but rather Sue the alarm clock and Joe the coffeepot. And as for smart machines giving us the paperless office, that will occur after the paperless bathroom.
Paul Jones said that while 50-year-olds view implantable machines as invasive, 70-year-olds (who may already have artificial hips, pacemakers, and hearing aids) are excited about the health possibilities of such technology. In addition, devices developed to help the disabled will benefit us all. Speech recognition, for example, has many practical applications.
Andy Ihnatko said that we could have better computer systems right now if only we would demand them. And implantable devices are not the best way to go because they are hard to upgrade.
Once the conference was over, it was back to covering the Colorado high tech scene.
On April 18 I attended the "State of Colorado's High Tech Economy (presented by Izodia (http://www.izodia.com) at the Omni Interlocken Hotel. Izodia is the new name of Infobank, an international leader of B2B commerce software and services. (Turns out that having the word "bank" in your name presents legal complications in some countries.) The company was founded in 1993 in the United Kingdom; its North American headquarters are in Broomfield.
The panel brought together Brian Savage, COO of Izodia, David Wolf, managing partner of Wolf Ventures (http://www.wolfventures.com), Mike Neal, CTO of Requisite Technology (http://www.requisite.com), Monty Sooter, VP and CIO of Corporate Express (http://www.corporateexpress.com), David Alshuler, VP of e-business and enterprise applications, Aberdeen Group (http://www.aberdeen.com), and Donald McCubbrey, director of the University of Denver's Center for the Study of Electronic Commerce (http://www.dcb.du.edu/eccenter/center.htm). Both Brian and Mike noted that the downturn is making a number of experienced, talented professionals available for hire. Other comments included:
*Last year was insane. People were competing basis on Power Point presentations. (Or, as David Wolf says, "big hat, no cattle.") People are still making purchases, they are still buying software, but they are taking longer to make decisions. We're hoping for a good
It's good to be global right now. Europe keeps chugging along.
*During 1999-2000 the public was willing to invest in pre-revenue IPOs, but that window has closed. Making the venture capital funding bottleneck even worse is the fact that portfolio managers don't have time to monitor new companies. Traditionally each manager oversees six companies. At the height of the dot-com boom, they were juggling ten to twelve. In good times, a company only takes 10% of a portfolio manager's time. In tough times, each company may require 30% of his time.
*Historically Colorado has been a vast importer of capital, with more than 70% of venture capital coming from out-of-state. We are also in need of more angel investors. We could use CAPCOs, which allow write-offs for investments.
*In 1992 when we would recruit a CEO from California, the response would be, "If I leave the game in the Valley and it doesn't work out, then I'm out of the loop." From 1996 on, that objection was no longer evident.
*The Internet is the enabler -- the means, not the end of the business process.
*Initially early adopters drove e-procurement -- technology for technology's sake. Now companies are looking to derive ROI in twelve months or less. On the plus side, e-procurement systems are now easier to integrate.
*There has been a fundamental shift in the attitude of employees. In the past they thought, "We're so dedicated to our jobs that it doesn't matter where we live." Now people are living where they want to live and then securing employment. This works in Colorado's favor. The quality of life is good, the cost of living is good, the infrastructure is as good as any in the country. We have the right mix.
Later that day I went over to the Izodia open house. Great food, catered by A Spice of Life. My favorites were the artichoke hearts stuffed with pesto. Music was provided by a jazz combo from the University of Colorado. Among those at the party were John Lundeen, managing director/partner, and Buddy Ketchner, managing partner of branding agency Sterling-Rice Group (http://www.srg.com), and several from PR firm The Weber Group (http://www.webergroup.com), including VP Sheila O'Neill and Carrie Schafer. I talked to Fernando Franco, president/CEO, and Benjamin Gochman, COO, of the Latin American Trade and Technology Group (http://www.LATGO.com) about an upcoming event of theirs featuring an important delegation from Mexico. And I talked classic cars with Leonard Johnson, of CPA firm Johnson, Cahill & O'Kelly, and Robert Heidler, project manager with Izodia.