mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

Yes, I know it’s mid-July. Summertime is in full swing. The heat is hot and the rain is not in Austin. The next “official” US holiday, Labor Day, is a nearly seven weeks away on September 5 – an eternity in mobi time.

But, my friend, there’s no time like the present to (urgently) plan for an onslaught of events that provide opportunities to learn, sell, and network with people from across the mobile app world. Below is our list of noteworthy conferences.

Some of these events are in greater Austin and some aren’t. And, no doubt, depending on your wireless and/or app focus, you may have other mobile events in your plans that we don’t mention here.

If so, then please let us know about them and why you think they are important in the Comments below. I may also have them posted to the Events calendar in The Appconomy, which you can always find here:

First: the big local, mobile events. The major Austin-area mobile Fall events are bunched up into a “murderer’s row” in October. They include:

  • InnoTech, October 20 – now in its 8th year in Austin
  • SenchaCon, October 23-26 – the annual developer’s conference for one of the emerging contenders for mobile cross-platform development tools
  • Texas Wireless Summit, October 25 – the “grand daddy” of all things mobile, produced by the Wireless Incubator at ATI and still heavily-oriented around core hardware and software technologies that power the industry, but more inclusive of app-related topics than ever before

There are a couple of key opportunities at InnoTech 2011, in particular, for mobile/apps companies to strongly consider. First, the Beta Summit will be returning, which is a high-visibility chance to get your new product in front of a key group of influencers. Although it’s open to more than mobile-related products, the Beta Summit is a great chance to take a product that is ready (or nearly so) to go-to-market and show it off.’s publisher, Bryan Menell, is chairing the Beta Summit again and encourages any team that wants to be a candidate for pitching to start “getting their act together” because the bar will be set high for this premier chance to show what you’ve got on-stage.

The second InnoTech opportunity is an offer from Conference Producer, Sean Lowery. Sean has always been especially tuned-in to the needs of emerging tech sectors and, thus, has been generous in years past in providing ways for new companies to join the conference Exhibit.

For 2011, Sean is taking inquiries from companies that would like to be featured in a Mobile and Apps Pavilion on the InnoTech Exhibit floor, providing them some additional visibility at an attractive rate. If you are interested, please let Sean and his team know ASAP, contacting them through the InnoTech website.

Of course, Austin is far from the only region to consider when mapping your mobile events for the Fall. A few others worth note (for which info and registration links may be found on this Events page) include:

  • Mobilize, September 26-27 (San Francisco) – arguably, the flagship mobile event for the industry, produced by GigaOM
  • App Developers Conference, October 26-27 (Santa Clara) – a promising-looking 1st year event, produced by Austinite Chris Sherman, who founded the Austin-hosted Game Developer’s Conference
  • AppsWorld North America, November 1-2 (New York City) – a robust East-coast program that has a heavy hitter line-up of speakers, programs, and exhibitors

Lastly, no listing of big conference would be complete without a few of the general startup-oriented tech-fests that tend to dominate all of the attention when they are in season. These events aren’t exclusively focused on apps or mobile technologies, but you can bet they will be deeply influenced by them. They include:

So, there you have it. The local, the mobile, and the global of Fall 2011 events. We look forward to seeing a bevy of our fellow ATXers at a number of these shows, demonstrating how our mobile scene rocks.

[Correction: Chris Sherman, producer of the App Developer Conference, is an Austin area resident, not a ‘former’ Austinite, as referred to in an earlier version of this post – even better!]


Without Chips, Mobile Is Nothing

mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

As I was on my way to pick up my Monday morning coffee at 6am, I had an audio double-take when I heard this exchange on the morning news report between the KUT anchor and a reporter from the Austin Business Journal about chipmaker Altera Corp’s announced intentions to move some R&D operations to Austin.

KUT anchor: “Why did they choose Austin for this?”

ABJ reporter: “Oh, because there is a Tech sector sort of emerging here in Austin – a lot of its due to smart phones and other cell phone technology…”

It was that “Tech sector sort of emerging here” comment that triggered my double-take.

I know most readers are pretty informed tech followers, so this may not be news to many of you, but I think it would fair to say that the tech sector in Austin is beyond the “emerging” stage.

In fact, semiconductor companies like Altera, far from being latecomers to our scene, were actually among some of the first big employers to plant their flags in central Texas. We didn’t get one of our many nicknames – Silicon Hills – by accident.

Back in the 1980s, Austin won a couple of national bake-offs to bring the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (aka, MCC) and Sematech to anchor the region’s federal and industry R&D funding in semiconductors.

Through the years, we’ve accumulated a number of big names: Motorola, IBM, AMD, Freescale, Spansion, and Samsung. Not surprisingly, we’ve also attracted major presences from the world’s largest suppliers of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, with Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron. This doesn’t count the presence from Intel, ARM, and others, with substantial teams of chip designers in Austin.

But while much of my writing for AustinStartup has to do with apps and the services side of our mobile scene, what’s really exciting is the next wave start-up activity we see from the eco-system of semiconductors for mobile.

Because, for sure, it’s coming. An indisputable sign, announced just last week, was news of Apple‘s becoming the world’s largest buyer of chips for computers and phones, driven by the success of the iPhone and iPad, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.

And, no surprise for those in the know, Austin has an iron “in that fire” with the presence of Cirrus Logic, a firm that’s riding the mobile wave so well that its stock is on the “Buy” list for many, due to the increased confidence that the company’s products are designed into Apple’s upcoming CDMA iPhone, iPad 2, iPhone 5, and iPod Touch.

From a start-up perspective, you could probably point to the modern-day roots of the mobile phone revolution inspiring semiconductor innovation in the Austin area with the launch of Silicon Labs.

A big bet by Austin Ventures and others, that has paid off handsomely, it kick-started a wave of mobile-influenced chip innovation that continues to this day, with AV portfolio companies includingBlack Sand Technologies, Innovative Silicon, Nascentric, and VeriSilicon.

But, as amazing and dependable as Moore’s Law has been, we’re on the verge of a whole new wave of chip development that could benefit our region.

From the nearer-term packaging innovation of companies like Calxeda (chronicled just today by GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham) to the longer-term quasi-science-fiction-like R&D research like an IBM team’s recent announcement that they were able to produce films (think integrated circuits) of graphene material just a single atom thick, I think it’s safe to say that Austin’s tech sector is moving the “emerging” stage and is on its way to a “how big can we get it?” stage.

As always, questions, comments, and opinions (both opposed or in favor) are welcome! 

What do *you* think Austin should be doing to encourage and accelerate innovation in the semiconductor ecosystem, especially as it relates to products and services directly supporting growth in mobile tech?

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Without Chips, Mobile Is Nothing

Margaret Mead and Mobile

mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

It’s Wednesday, not Tuesday (the holiday through me off) and this is a bit more of a pure editorial piece than my normal contribution, but bear with me. 

There was as good article in a recent edition of the Sunday Statesman by Brian Gaar on the greater Austin mobile scene. 

What I really liked about the article, besides the picture of Whurley with Grover, were some of the comments from the principals interviewed about Austin and the mobile scene.  They were asked about attributes that make our region a good locus for the growth that mobile development has seen, as well as how they expect it to evolve, especially in relationship to other regions.

It seems that a good number believe that the region needs a breakout hit to elevate its status to the topmost tier as the #1 place for mobile.  At the same time, there is some reticence to believe that even such a hit would make enough of a difference, given the dominance of Silicon Valley-based mobile titans like Google and Apple.

Returning to the Statesman article, a particular quote stayed with me on this subject: “we’re never going to be a dominant scene if we don’t all work together to foster the competition” with other regions.

It reminded me of the famous quote, most often attributed to the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

To build such a shared sense of thought and commitment to making Austin the most desirable mobile scene, one must have good gathering spots – both physically and digitally.  We’ve talked about a few of the physical gathering spots are the Austin Tech Happy Hours, Social Media Club meetings, Mobile Monday happy hours, iPhone and Android meet-ups, and (annually) the Texas Wireless Summit – just to name a few!

For digital gathering spots, there are a variety as well, ranging from the regular coverage of mobile by the Statesman and Business Journal, to a variety of good blogs by individuals (like Enrique Ortiz) and companies (like Digby, where you can learn a lot about mobile retail).

Our blog – The Appconomy – is another good digital gathering spot.  In fact, we’ve just updated it to add more original articles, more participation and sharing by readers, and other useful information like regional / national events and apps of note.  I hope you will take a look and register to add your ideas and thoughts.

Otherwise, like Ms. Mead said, without more thoughtful, committed, mobile citizens working together, we risk coming up short in the on-going fight on the national scene (and global) to retain and attract the best and brightest people and companies to our region.

Margaret Mead and Mobile

Access: Mobile

mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich Special Edition

What if you could increase the addressable user base in the US of your mobile app by up to 10%? Or what if you could increase the total addressable size of the US market that you can sell your app to by up to 20%?

And, finally, what if you could achieve these increases in addressable share almost solely through the design of your app, by incorporating techniques that have little to no impact in the typical user experience or cost of development?

All you need is the awareness of the techniques, and then the training to apply them to your craft.

Well, that’s exactly the opportunity proposed through attending the John Slatin Access University (or AccessU, as it’s known) which is in its 10th year this month.

Produced by Knowbility, Inc., an Austin-headquartered non-profit and inspired by Professor John Slatin (photo above), founder of the Accessibility Institute at the University of Texas, who passed away in 2008, AccessU is a 3-day conference, May 17-19, conducted primarily on the St. Edwards University campus. Here is what one past participant has to say about the conference:

Everything I know about accessibility and universal design, I owe to Knowbility. Their AccessU conferences set the standard for accessibility training. The staff at Knowbility are a smart, passionate, and hardworking bunch. Knowbility does more for accessibility awareness than any other organization I can think of.

– Marla Erwin, Interactive Art Director, Whole Foods Market, Designer and Accessibility Consultant

While the conference covers a wide variety of state-of-the-art design and development techniques and tools, app developers and mobile designers should especially take note of these two sessions:

When you consider that nearly 1 in 10 people experience some form of physical impairment or disability during their lifetimes (ranging from being born blind to temporarily losing mobility of a hand through an injury) or that nearly 20% of the US economy is comprised of public sector and other heavily regulated industry which frequently require that technology products conform to federal and state accessibility mandates, then you immediately understand the value of the knowledge and skills that a conference like AccessU provides.

But, when you further consider how a relatively low-impact set of design choices for your app can have a profound, positive effect on the day-to-day life of a sight-impaired child or adult, it’s easy to see why AccessU is among the best training dollars a designer or developer could spend this year.

So, here’s the bad news: if you are reading this post on Wednesday, then you’ve already missed Adams’ presentation.  But, the good news is that you still have two more days to attend and there are day rates available.

My colleagues at Appconomy plan to attend AccessU and we encourage you to as well!

Access: Mobile

Super Bowls and Scenes

helmetsmobileTech Tuesday by Steve Guengerich

The University of Texas and the other great public and private universities in Texas – from my alma mater Texas A&M in College Station, to Rice University in Houston, and many more – serve to educate each new generation’s youth with the skills and knowledge to make their mark in the world.

Recently, university research in addition to teaching has made the headlines. One of the upshots is a renewed interest in the commercialization potential of research produced by our universities. While many research projects lack immediate commercial application, the public has a unique annual opportunity to see a few instances where research, commercialization, and teaching perfectly mesh.

Next week is the annual Texas Venture Labs competition at the UT Austin campus. Formerly known as the Moot Corp competition, this program is the “super bowl” of MBA business plan pitches. And, if the trend in recent years holds true, a number of the plans will be designed around commercializing technology or other discoveries originating with university research.

The public is invited to attend a large majority of the program at no charge. I especially urge you to attend the Venture Showcase on Thursday evening, where all of the teams are present, standing beside small demonstration tables, speaking about their products or services.

It’s a great chance to learn their process, ask questions, and frankly be inspired by their enthusiasm. I, for one, am hoping to see some novel apps and other mobile products and technologies this year.

The local newspaper has been highlighting Governor Perry’s desire to see the Austin area become another “Silicon Valley.” By continuing to serve as host and grow the stature of the Venture Labs competition, Austin’s business community and the University of Texas help to make this happen.

dfw sceneAnother way we make can make this happen is to continually remind ourselves that another key to success is to think in terms of nurturing a regional eco-system.

Just as Silicon Valley actually represents a corridor of companies, institutions, and cities from San Jose north to San Francisco (and, if you want to be more broad-minded, on north through Oakland up to Livermore), we need to think of Austin as a hub of a regional tech eco-system.

Specific to mobile, then, we took another step this week in mapping the broader mobile scene in two other Texas cities: Dallas and Houston.

As before, when we introduced the map for the Austin mobile scene, we want to stress that the Dallas and Houston maps are starting points. And, in the spirit of collaboration, we hope that others will join to contribute the names of more companies, events, investors, media, associations, and key people to the maps over time, as they’ve done with the Austin mobile scene.

I look forward to forward to hearing from you and working together to build the Texas mobile scene.

Super Bowls and Scenes

Austin Tech Happy Hour Thursday at the W Hotel

We are changing our standard venue just this once so that you can experience Austin’s fabulous new W Hotel. Check it out if you’re considering holding an event or conference, or if you want to find the best place for your out-of-town guests to stay while they are in Austin.

When: Thursday, April 28th from 6pm – 8pm
Where: W Hotel

There is plenty of parking downtown. The hotel will have valet for $14, but there is parking at the AMLI across the street, City Hall on the south side, street parking at the meters is free after 6pm, and there are several surface lots too.

Austin Tech Happy Hour Thursday at the W Hotel

Mobile is Global

book-CSA online experience funnel

mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

This week’s article is cross-posted from its original in The Appconomy.

Intellectually, most people “get” that the market for mobile technology and apps is a global one. But, sometimes, we lose sight of the examples that remind us the pros and cons of this reality.

Pros, in the sense of potential markets in which to sell goods far beyond any one entrepreneur’s national boundaries; cons, in the sense of a global, 24×7 competitive environment, prohibiting you from counting on any region as a safe harbor for cornering a sale.

Lest we forget, the historical roots of the mobile communications network races (which could today easily be captured in a Buzz Lightyear-style rally cry “to 5G and beyond!”) come from the initial launch of the first generation (or “1G”) network covered the full metropolitan area of Tokyo’s over 20 million inhabitants with a cellular network of 23 base stations in 1978.

Within five years, the network had been expanded to cover the whole population of Japan and became the first nation-wide 1G network, built and operated by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT).

Today, the appconomy is a more global phenomenon than ever, where time zones and national boundaries still exist in fact, but in practice mean less and less to our work and leisure time. Innovation in mobile can happen anywhere, as nicely highlighted in an excellent, free eBook by Tomi Ahonen.
Examples that Anonen cites? How about:

Layar, the augmented reality browser, sounds like futuristic digital magic that should come from Japan or South Korea, but it was invented in the Netherlands.

Angry Birds, the most popular iPhone game surely must come from the West Coast of the USA, home of EA and all of the clever game designers, but it came from Finland.

For all of the European and Asians who think the USA is lagging in mobile, what of the most advanced mobile video blogging and sharing service? Must come from Scandinavia or Japan, right? No, Qik was launched in the USA.

That’s not to say that regional culture and tradition don’t matter. Quite the opposite. In fact, as the research firm Common Sense Advisory established in March 2011, it takes a minimum of 16 languages for a website or app to be among the most competitive online – and that number keeps growing each year. (See the Figure)

As they summarized, in 2010, no one country or language accounted for more than 25% of the total online population (TOP). In fact, to effectively communicate with a minimum threshold of 80% of potential global visitors, the website would require no fewer than 11 languages.

So, start by educating yourself, whether it’s:

  • reading books and research, like those from Ahonen and the CSA group, respectively;
  • adding prominent, non-US global media to your regular reading – via RSS from high growth markets like India, China, or Brazil, or via iPad apps from like the BBC or Economist), or;
  • attending a basics workshop conducted by your local chamber of commerce/international trade groups, like this workshop in Austin in May or this international coalition meeting in June.

Pay attention to international – mobile is global.

Mobile is Global

Where the Mobile Things Are

logo_mobilemonday_hi_res_color1-austinmobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

Dug out from Southby 2011 yet? After a week, I’m finally feeling a little recovered and in a position to look ahead. And, for me, what lies ahead falls into the spirit of the infamous Monty Python catchphrase: “…and now, for something completely different!”

Because as awesome as it was to experience the 10-day carnival that was SxSW 2011 and see local buds like Hurricane Party get such great national buzz, and as amazing as the hubbub about the identity-snatching, $40 zillion-something funded app Color has been in the intervening week, my attention is squarely focused on the more quiet revolution in the enterprise.

In Austin, there are a few formal and informal resources for you to tap, if mobile is your responsibility in the enterprise. For casual, in-person networking with other like-minded professionals, there’s the Mobile Monday and Android Developer communities and related meetings.

For chief information officers (CIOs) and other IT professionals, a couple of recommended groups are the ATC’s CIO/CTO roundtable and the Association of IT Professionals (or AITP). These two jointly conduct regular meetings and, as one would expect, nearly every one of them touches some aspect of mobile in the enterprise. The conversation is rich and the best practices, extremely valuable.

tx wireless summitIf you are looking for forums with an expanded audience, a few to recommend include:

  • CIO Summit, part of the Innotech regional conference group’s annual fall conference
  • Texas Wireless Summit, a statewide event with national ties, from programming led by the ATI
  • Mobilize, to pick one of several analyst firms’ options

While all of these are Fall timeframe events, there is a near-term opportunity, also being produced by GigaOM: the Mobile Enterprise Summit. Scheduled for late April in San Francisco, this 1-day event will feature speakers from industry as well as major enterprise vendors like AT&T, RIM, and SAP.

gigaom mobile summit bannerBoth the Mobile Monday Austin and Mobile Monday Silicon Valley chapters are promotional partners, with my company, Appconomy, participating as an underwriting host along with GigaOM.

For those that can’t make it, we’re considering video recording and streaming options. But, just like the CIO and mobile roundtables described earlier, it’s hard to beat the occasional in-person, high velocity value that these types of events offer.

Look: we all know the size and scale of the transition of economic activity to mobile is massive. From VC sage Mary Meeker of Kleiner to F500 stalwart John McCarthy of Forrester, the data showing thatr the transition underway is phenomenal. But, there are still some incredibly vexing problems, nay barriers, to enabling inter- and intra-enterprise app roll-out on a massive scale.

austintechhhAnd the more we can all learn from and share solutions to those barriers – whether at an Austin tech happy hours or a GigaOM Summits – the better off we will all be. If there are other mobile-focused events in Austin, as well as regional or national conferences that you recommend, please let us know in the comments below.

Where the Mobile Things Are

Why Capital Factory?

The application deadline for Austin-based Capital Factory‘s 2011 program is Sunday, and momentum for tech startups and entrepreneurship in general are riding high as the SXSW Interactive festival wraps up. Signs of the frenzy include an increase in Startup Buses from one to six this year, a busload of MBA students from Michigan who are out to networks with startups, and recent tech investor Ashton Kutcher making an appearance at the Foursquare party. With the number of technology accelerators on the rise, the most frequent question I get asked is how Capital Factory is different from other programs. I posed this question to FamigoGames co-founder Q Beck. “One difference we found very important is the fact that the program mentors are also the investors in the fund, and they’re active practitioners themselves,” Q told us. “With only 5 companies in the program, and 20 mentors you get some very hands-on advice and a lot of attention compared to other programs we looked at.”

In some ways the answer to this question lies less in comparisons to other programs, and more in the value of the startup ecosystem in Austin, and the role that Capital Factory plays in it. In the selection process, I get the chance to meet with founders with varying motivations. In today’s bubble-like environment, many think they are going to emerge from a summer program with a fist-full of term sheets. Some of them will. Is that an indicator of success? Maybe. I look for founders with somewhat of a “built to last” attitude because starting a company, and indeed even being an entrepreneur is not a destination but a journey. Austin is a great place to support that journey.

Let’s talk about a real-world example of the path that I think is going to be more common in the future. In our inaugural year, we supported one of those long weekend programs where startups were formed in three days. We agreed to fast track the winner into our top ten list. That company, FamigoGames, was indeed selected for our very first program in 2009. They received $20,000 in cash, lots of free services (including their logo and branding), and mentorship from our twenty mentors. After our summer program, the company went into the Austin Technology Incubator where they continued to learn, iterate, and grow. Today the company has successfully raised angel financing, and they are investing in faster growth and adoption of their family gaming platform.

The timing of this growth path — 3 days, 3 months, 12 months — is going to be more common in startups that are going to run lean, be nimble, and be successful in the long term. Austin is one of the few cities in the country that has the ecosystem to support the full lifecycle of this journey. The side benefit is that these young 20-something entrepreneurs are going to carry this experience into the next companies they start in Austin.

For five days every spring, thousands of people come to Austin to experience a small taste of our community, and maybe even catch a little spark for themselves. In the end, that is what makes Capital Factory different. I find myself selling the Austin lifestyle and ecosystem, rather than the program itself. For tech startups, I think the decision process is simple; experience Austin and if it resonates with you, you’ll know it right away.

Why Capital Factory?

A Sampling of SXSMobile and Beyond

sxsmobilemobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

My apologies for the tardiness of our post this week. But, to paraphrase a line from one of the more memorable #SXSW tweets I saw this past week, “am covered in sweat after 3 hours of scheduling and have only gotten through Sunday!”

Yes, no doubt that the depth and breadth of SXSW is so great that the question will be debated again this year whether or not the conference has jumped the shark – in particular Interactive. 

However, rather than think of it as 3 very large conferences, the smart play for quite some time has been to think of it more as dozens of smaller, overlapping mini-conferences on subjects ranging from Latin America to Robotics.

Among the larger of these mini-conferences, very clearly, is the sum of the mobile programming. Type “mobile” into the SXSW Schedule site and you will get more than 40 unique events across the 5 days. That doesn’t count synonyms (e.g., tablet or smartphone) or themes & variations (e.g., iPhone, Android, etc). It also doesn’t count special events, like the Ignite Austin program or the Accelerator, where almost certainly mobile will play a prominent role in multiple presentations. 

Then there are the evening events, a couple of which I’ll highlight, including:

Appcelerator’s kick-off party at BestFit Mobile’s SoCo digs on Sunday night, after which you can waltz over to Buffalo Billiards as part 1 of the Mashable House party begins. 

Mobile Monday Austin’s annual unofficial SXSW party at Fogo de Chao on Monday night, with the Austin chapter and its sponsors hosting chapters from elsewhere in the US and abroad. 

And once the haze of SXSW Interactive (and Film + Music) clears, what is there to look forward to in April? Let me suggest that is a time to get out of town and “go west” for a couple of focused mobile industry events in Silicon Valley – one by presented by GigaOm (in association with yours truly) that is for mobile enterprise leaders and practitioners, with the other by presented by VentureBeat that is for mobile investors and product developers.

I could go on, but then you wouldn’t have anything to break a cold sweat over would you?

A Sampling of SXSMobile and Beyond