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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mobile mingle

Want to know what's hot right now? Look at what the smartest guy in Denmark, Nikolaj Nyholm, is up to (or meet him at SIME 2007). Nikolaj's newest project, that has been flying under the radar, is Imity. This is Facebook 2.0, a mobile social networking service that uses bluetooth. The service was mentioned on TechCrunch in a round up of mobile social networks: "Imagine walking into a meeting, classroom, party, bar, subway station, airplane, etc. and seeing profile information about other people in the area, depending on privacy settings. Picture, name, dating status, resume information, etc. The information that is available would be relevant to the setting - quick LinkedIn type information for a business meeting v. Facebook dating status for a bar".

Photo by Jacob Bøtter.
(The note also mentions Danish

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tea with Danah Boyd

I had a an interesting cup of tea with Danah Boyd, who is a PhD student atthe School of Information at Berkeley and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

To listen to Danah is like being showered with interesting thoughts and perspectives and a fast track to understanding more than what you see on the surface. (A lot like SIME actually.) While most people are joining the choir singing the online networks gospel or admiring their own newly pimped profile Danah is a lot more critical.

Danah provoked strong reactions from the blogosphere and from traditional media alike when she came out with an article claiming that social software in general and Facebook and Myspace in particular creates a new class society, while at the same time reinforcing the old working class vs upper class polarization (read her papers at

In Danahs view Myspace is the home for the working class which is shown not only by what people are doing for a living but also through things like interests and the manner by which the myspaces pages look (read: bling bling). Myspace pages can be the show stopper at job interviews or can even be the cause of the myspacer getting fired. Facebook on the other side, grew from the elite at Harvard, to capturing large parts of the college scene to becoming the social network of choice for academics and for the privileged class. On Facebook the well todo display academic merits, an international network, openness and a modern mindset that alongside impeccable grades and/or an evident silver spoon close at hand enforces the overall profile of the Facebooker.

Many of the critics of Danahs thesis, maybe including the companies themselves, seem to misunderstand the implications of her statements and interpreted them as Myspace having a tougher future ahead when the truth might be the opposite in a world where the rich and successful are a scarce minority in comparison with the overwhelming minority of consumption ready masses.

In Danahs vision of the future, both of the companies and many other fast growing social networks will face trouble. The notion of having everyone in the same social space is not so easy in practise. One example is what she calls the parent-child phenomena. For a 16 year old daughter the mere thought of having her mother seeing her drunk on photos from a party she should not even have had when the parent where gone is as disturbing as it is for the mother to have her daughter seeing her unorthodox sexual preferences or way of interacting with other grown-up´s.

When looking at the phenomena as such, social networks will embark on a new even more mass market oriented journey once the recipe of getting into the handsets is figured out. Today the lack of interoperability between carriers and handset manufacturers makes it virtually impossible for social media to interact in a meaningful way besides the call and the sms. This change will not come until the Telco’s change attitude or until WiFi or other technologies can bypass the existing oligopolies. Before that will happen Danah has most likely ventured far from the self publishing worlds where everyone craves 15 bytes of fame into another intriguing area that she describes as her pet-obsession: the Saudi funded rural schools in neighbouring Arab countries.

Published by Ola Ahlvarsson

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Comments are great

Kara Swisher has some excellent comments today on the subject of Microsoft and Facebook: "15 billion more reasons to worry about Facebook".

Although the column is great, this comment must be this year's best:

"I think you make a VERY serious mistake in evaluating FB. I know someone who got laid dozens of time through this site. It’s changing our lives in ways Yahoo! could never dream. A person in college without a FB page is a non-person. It’s a truly disruptive offering - a sky-rocketing would do it justice.Posted by yuval romik at September 25th, 2007 at 7:34 am "

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Next generation virtual worlds are part of the web

Remember the interview at SIME 2006 with Philip Rosedale in Second Life? Well since last year virtual worlds have exploded. IBM is investing $100 million in technology for virtual worlds, Harvard has opened up class rooms in Second Life and Swedbank is looking into establishing a branch in Entropia Universe. But the technologies have to a large extent been proprietary, although Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life is aiming at making it open source). The different worlds, or virtual environments have not been interconnected, or more importantly integrated with the web.

Last week a new tool was launched at TechCrunch Conference: Metaplace. It was developed by Ralph Koster, who helped build Ultima Online. Users of Metaplace can build 3D online worlds for PCs or even a mobile phone without any knowledge of complex computer languages.

"We modelled this on the web," said Koster. "You can think about each world being a webpage and every object within in it is a link." Koster believes the tool will be used to create a wide variety of different virtual worlds including chatrooms, games similar to WOW, or teaching environments.

"We want to see 10,000 virtual worlds so that lots of wild and crazy stuff gets made because that is the only way it will advance as a medium," said Koster.
Metaplace is entirely web based and connections can be made between all of the different worlds". Put a doorway at your virtual car dealer that leads to your World of Cars. Stick your world in a widget on your Facebook or MySpace profile. Mail it to a friend and they can log in with one click. You can read more in Wagner James Au’s story about MetaPlace on GigaOm.

For all of us who are working with business development in virtual worlds, this is what we have been waiting for! The walled gardens of Second Life and Entropia are less suitable for large corporate initiatives. Here is a web modelled software that will enable many different kind of users to harness the vast virtual opportunities available. Virtual worlds or environemnets will become a natural part of the web - just another way to display content and information.

Metaplace is currently going through testing and the final version will be made available to the public in spring 2008.

Being an internet entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs have always been strange, fascinating, passionate and often stubborn beyond the comprehension of normal nine-to-fivers. If you add "Internet" to the mix, you get an even stranger breed, the “internet entrepreneur”.

For a long time, our society had a certain view of what it meant to be an entrepreneur. Then in the mid nineties the globe exploded with visionaries waving increasingly more outlandish plans to build global auction companies online, or sell all the books in the world to all the people in the world or to be able to search and find any information anywhere anytime.

The venture capital community were doing back-flips of joy at such unmatched returns, and stock exchanges all over the world saw record highs. It really seemed there was a new economy arising. An economy in which normal rules did not apply, where kids with brains and guts could leapfrog established giants, an era where technology and innovation seemed to have no boundaries.

We all know what happened in 2000. The infatuation with our industry turned to scorn when bankruptcy lawyers came to pick up the pieces. This wave of disappointment hit Internet entrepreneurs in Europe harder than their colleagues in the US, a country where bouncing back from defeat is part of an accepted success story. In Europe the gloating voices of the media and the "I-always-knew-it-would-turn-out-to-be-a-bubble" attitude of traditional companies created a climate where Internet entrepreneurs were no longer the flavour of the month.

But in the meantime something happened. It happened in the digital mines of Silicon Valhalla in Scandinavia, and in the sharpest minds in the gaming and gambling hub Gibraltar, and in the awakening German web 2.0 scene. It happened in the Mecca of mobile phones Finland, in the incubators in Israel and in France where the blog movement grew stronger for every blog post, every comment, every user generated opinion. A new breed of European companies and entrepreneurs started to surface and the companies they build were no longer built on empty dreams or US blueprints. Even though many of the heroes of the Dotcom boom are back with new even bolder ideas.

The new internet entrepreneurs have innovative, often disruptive ideas. Ideas not focusing on hype and fast cash, but with a focus on real new services. Their focus is on making the user a little bit happier. "Always delight the user", as Skype’s motto suggests. Many of the new stars are American, but a growing number are from Europe, and almost all of them are global.

And while these entrepreneurs were building their companies a new European eco system started to evolve. An eco system I believe will be one of the most important corner stones in Europe’s digital future. Companies like Skype, Spanish WiFi company FON, German Sevenload, Finnish Habbo Hotel or Swedish free mobile service Rebtel are beating the incumbents as well as the Americans at their own game. When serial-entrepreneurs like the Sahmwer brothers in Germany, the French blog overlord Loïc LeMeur, Skype founder Niklas Zenström and many other successful European digital entrepreneurs exchange ideas something happens. The same thing that made Silicon Valley so vibrant. We are experiencing an entrepreneurial zeitgeist giving birth to companies like French Netvibes - who in no time gathered millions of Europeans and makes large portals tremble.

In a not too distant future most of us will be knowledge workers, many of us even digital workers. Some of us may well be occupied with such alien tasks as producing digital furniture to sell in online worlds, or pursuing athletic careers in the booming digital sports arena. Others may simply be doing their work on different hours, from different locations. In any case, something significant IS happening.

We are seeing a new Europe evolving, a Europe focusing on Europe, European entrepreneurs easily maneuvering through the diverse cultural landscape of Europe while striking alliances and flirting with the growing Asian titans India and China. For them the question "how can we Europeans compete with the US" is as strange as the opposite for an American entrepreneur. This new breed of European entrepreneurs will create jobs, wealth, inspire and make life easier, more fun and/or a lot of other things with their ideas.

Something even more exiting is happening; the term entrepreneur is no longer high-jacked by the stereotype idea of the whizkid sitting in his garage with a mad plan. Employees on all levels in already existing organisations are starting to look at themselves as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs with the right and maybe even the obligation to build, innovate, change and create.

Being an Internet entrepreneur is not necessarily about owning the company. You could just as well be an employee. It is about being passionate about digital opportunities and taking advantage of living in the most exciting of all times to create.

Because we are living in an economy where normal rules where offset, where kids with brains and guts could frog leap established giants, an era where technology and innovation seemed to have no boundaries. Or aren’t we?

(Orginally written for Picnic Holland. See you at the event later this week!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bling for your blog

Last week Amazon announced 16 new widgets, making it really easy for affiliates to spice up their websites or blogs.

There is a widget that will display products based upon the content of your site. Its called ‘Omakase’ and it will, through some sort of proprietary software, mine your site’s content and then it will display products accordingly. I would love to have included this widget in the SIME Blog to see what type of Amazon products are related to our content! Orange scarfs, great people, party attire or something more unexpected?
So far, the discussion around widget monetization has centered on how publishers can monetize the widgets that people embed on other sites. Sexy Widget ( a great blog btw) turns the question around: " Maybe the discussion should be around how the widget itself can be a monetization platform for the host site". More to come on this subject.

PS PS Omakase is a Japanese word meaning 'leave it up to us'. It is commonly used in Japanese restaurants for a meal where the chef uses their experience and knowledge to select and prepare the meal for a customer without specific directions. DS

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What is the state of the Danish Internet?

SIME held an event in Copenhagen last week. Morten Lund (to the right), the rebellious, Danish investor, said that Danish Internet could be summarized in one word: Freeway. The Freeway team has been responsible for a number of success stories such as dating (, social communities (Arto &, e-business (Trendsales) and other online inititatives. When Ola Ahlvarsson, the moderator of the event, asked the audience to name other interesting internet initatives, all he got was deep silence.

Help us out here, readers: we would like to present the Danish Internet at depth and need your knowledge of the market. What are the most interesting things on the web in Denmark at present? What's the next big thing?
By the way, Morten Lund, who calls himself a "startup ideologist digging the VC soil", will be at SIME 2007 to spice things up...

Mr Google Europe to SIME

What would a leading Internet event be without a leading personality from Google? The SIME agenda has been upgraded with the addition of the man responsible for shaping Google’s future in Europe: Nikesh Arora. He will talk about the future of search based advertising and its impact on business and society.

Nikesh Arora manages and develops Google's operations in the European market. He has the task of making sense of one of Google’s most complex markets, where around 30 languages are spoken across a relatively small geographical area. It requires him to manage the expectations of disparate local groups while keeping Google's strategy constant across countries.

When Nikesh Arora was approached to join Google in 2004, he got an unusual request.
He was asked: ‘Ever been to the British Museum? Sergey Brin and Larry Page will meet you there.’ His job interview with the search giant took place walking around the exhibits.

Prior to joining Google, he was Chief Marketing Officer and a Member of the Management Board at T-Mobile. At T-Mobile, he spearheaded all product development, terminals, brand and marketing activities of T-Mobile Europe.

Originally from India, Nikesh got his MBA in the US and now lives in London.

Europe’s King of Browsers to Stockholm

Photo by: Ariane Beky

The browser market is hot again and we expect discussions about the future direction at SIME. We are really pleased to announce that Europe’s leading browser expert, Tristan Nitot, will be coming to SIME 2007. He is the founder and current president of Mozilla Europe, the international affiliate of the Mozilla Foundation and home of the Firefox browser.

The market share for Firefox is growing, especially in Europe. Over 30% of all Internet users prefer the browser from Mozilla. “I hope we continue to gain market share, as our goal is to promote choice. Monopoly leads to lack of innovation.”, Tristan says to Cnet.
Tristan is passionate about what he sees as Microsoft’s opposition to the Internet’s development when it stopped development of the Internet Explorer browser for five years after 2001. “IE was getting more and more obsolete in development terms. The Internet was stalling because of this,” he says. It was technologies like Netscape’s Netcaster, which acted as the core of what became RSS that helped open up the Web again”, he says to TechCrunch.

The Mozilla Foundation is a huge project with thousands of individuals working together to bring “more choice to the web”. Tristan has been contributing to this project since 2001. With the help of Mozilla Europe, Firefox is translated into more than 40 languages worldwide.

Tristan has worked with browser technology for over 10 years. He was with Netscape from 1997 to 2003, first in charge of Product marketing in Southern Europe and then Technology Evangelist, managing developer relations in Europe.

Tristan is a strong advocate for open source and has helped launching the project in 2002, aiming at promoting Web standards and accessibility.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

SIME in Copenhagen

Some of the feedback we received from the participants (a chance to practice your Danish):
- Det var helt klart ’real experts’ med super skarpe holdninger, der var på scenen i dag.

- Det var en super inspirerende dag med mange interessante oplæg. Dejligt at blive trukket op i de højere luftlag.

- Mange tak for en rigtig god SIME dag. Sjældent har vi oplevet et så godt udvalg af spændende mennesker på dansk jord. Vi håber I holder et til næste år.

Thank you speakers, guests, audience and De Gule Siderne. We will be back!


SIME is very happy to announce their partnership with PICNIC ’07. PICNIC’07 isn’t just a conference. It’s a festival - a week of fresh, creative, innovative ideas. At this leading international event, creative minds from the worlds of media, entertainment, science and the arts convene from Monday 24 September to Saturday 29 September in Amsterdam. Speakers include Richard Branson, who will talk about entrepreneurship and announce the winner of the PICNIC GREEN CHALLENGE, the exciting € 500,000 eco-invention competition. Whose bright idea will save the planet?
SIME and Picnic will share ideas, formats and hopefully guests.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

FAQ: Is Martin Varsavsky coming to SIME07?

One of the most frequently asked questions is "Is Martin Varsavsky coming to SIME07?". Well, of course he is! SIME wouldn't be SIME without the charismatic serial entrepreneur from Argentina. He will charm you with his wit, wisdom and humour and hopefully present some new hot startups.

Tomight the SIME team is in Copenhagen having dinner with Martin's son Tom, 12. Tom is participating at a SIME-related event in Copenhagen tomorrow. Let's see if we can persuade him to join his Dad at SIME07 in Stockholm!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Danny Rimer - the shining star in Europe’s VC industry

You’ve met some of the most interesting startups of the web at SIME. Now you will have a chance to meet Danny Rimers at SIME07, the guy who has been an early investor in many of these companies - Netvibes, Fon, Stardoll and Rebtel to name just a few.

Danny is a partner at the VC firm Index Ventures in London. He was brought up in Geneva, was educated at Harvard and then spent seven years working in Silicon Valley, which has given him a broad view of the world. "I'm always thinking as an outsider, and I'm always mindful of whether a company can be impactful on a global basis. Frankly, I'm paranoid about anyone anywhere who could be a competitive threat”, he says in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News.

Danny currently serves on a number of boards including FON, Joost, MySQL, Oanda, Spot Runner, Stardoll and Viagogo. He previously was a director of KVS (now Veritas), Skype (now eBay) and (now CBS).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

SIME@World Economic Forum in China

SIME is extremely proud that our Host and Producer, Ola Ahlvarsson, is one of the selected "New Champions" to participate at the first "Davos in China", featuring global growth companies and new champions. Today Ola met with Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP (with names like Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson and Grey). Sir Martin described how the Chinese media landscape is opening up and how digital media is leading the way. There is a fantastic opportunity to tango with local media companies. Another key understanding is that 184 cities have more than 1 million people…and each of theses cities could be seen as a new market where you can do local partnerships.

The most interesting space for foreign companies to focus on is the evolving digital arena. The growth is unmatched and the space is less regulated. Other interesting areas that grow fast are outdoor media but also radio, growing with 20-30% ( probably as a result of the growing Shanghai and Beijing traffic jams...) Last but not least Chinese magazines are becoming an increasingly interesting channel to reach the rapidly growing high income audiences.

However there are also some challenges such as:

Sir Martin also commented on the development of the new media market in Scandinavia: ”Looking at Scandinavia you are excellent in new media, for example Schibsted (SIME Grand Prize Winner 2006) has been fantastic, and a great investment for international institutions”.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Social networking - a lock-in strategy?

Keeping users locked in a specific social community is a dominant strategy. The opposite would be open networks where people could easily move between networks.

Should social networks be more open? Do traditional users (like me) care enough that our data is controlled by the social communities, like Facebook, MySpace and a Small World (Speaker SIME06)? For those of you who feel locked-in, and who want to take your identity wherever you like, Tariq Krim of Netvibes (Speaker SIME06) is offering a new Facebook Widget. It allows users to access their Facebook info on Netvibes (open system).

Is this discussion important? Mark Canter of PeopleAggregator argues that "History will prove that by freeing the end-user’s data, a distributed mesh of inter-connecting social networks and blogging platforms will create an ecosystem in which ALL software vendors and plaforms can participate in - equally". Read Mark's excellent blog entry: "The Chess game of social networking".

What do you think?

(Thanks to Jockum Hultén, Snowball Captial for the theme).

Monday, September 3, 2007

What's hot in China?

Many of our panels at SIME 07 will report on the web development in China. We will get first hand information from our moderator Thomas Crampton, who is is based in Shanghai as of this fall. In his blog he is reporting on the theme of "TECHNO CHINA: What are the biggest Internet trends in China and which ones could be exported from China?".

Do you want to know more about media, advertising and urban life in China? Listen to this podcast (from our friend Tomas Wennström at "What's next") with Jeremy Goldkorn at the blog as he talks about internet in China. You may have heard of “Sexy Beijing“, a series of videos approaching half a million views on Youtube.

In another podcast from "What's next" we get the story of the Chinese night life community The founders, Alexander N. Bellas and Yu Wang, met in Sweden (at SIME?), but now run their business from Beijing. They have been taking business models from Sweden, such as nightlife communities, that are not as well known in China as those from the US.

Interesting to note is that Chinese surfers often judge a website by looking at the brands that advertise. A well established brand helps the look of the site.

What other websites and services are hot in China? Share some of them with us here at the SIME blog.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

SIME@Burning Man

Our favorite ex-scientist of Amazon, Andreas Weigend (SIME speaker 2006 and 2007), will be at the Burning Man festival this weekend. It is the craziest, grandest and most spectacular of events and we are eagerly looking forward to a report!

Burning Man is an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance. It has grown from a small group of people gathering spontaneously to a community of over 40,000 people. The event is held in the middle of the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada and has always been a favorite of the internet community on the West Coast. The climax of the event is the burning of the effigy, a large sculpture of a human figure, on Saturday night. After the weekend, all participants leave the site, having left no trace. SIME is always aspiring to create some of the buzz, glamour and originality of the Burning Man event!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

SIME goes to China

More than 1,700 officials and business leaders from 90 countries and regions are expected to take part in the first World Economic Forum (Davos Forum), in China. From Sept. 6 to 8 the participants will discuss the shifting global business environment, China's economic development, and how businesses go global.

Among the influential participants is Ola Ahlvarsson, SIME:s Chairman and Executive Producer. Ola will be reporting from this historical event on our SIME blog. Check it out!

Esther Dyson on Facebook

Esther Dyson in a vertical wind tunnel.
Photo courtesy of Jon Gales

We are extremely happy to welcome Esther Dyson to SIME 2007. She was our key note speaker at SIME 1998 and is still one of the most important and visionary thinkers of the Internet age. Esther manages to speak the truth and to be heard when and where it matters.

Here are some of her reflections on Facebook (from her blog):
"Facebook supports the attention economy -- as opposed to the purchase intention economy. Think of Facebook not so much as information exchange as a place where you can establish and spread your presence, and get attention back. That's the currency of the future ... and it may or may not be directly exchangeable for money".