Perhaps I’m missing something.

English: The Tesla Roadster is the only all-el...

With regard to the issues being argued around Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model and the legality of such – while the concerns of auto dealers (profitability, sales guidance, and service facilities for customers) have merit, the lower maintenance architecture of all-electric vehicles do give rise to the need for new “thinking” in terms of the models that manage and regulate the related activities and processes.  The point of this post though is NOT to argue those merits, but to suggest what seems a relatively straightforward solution for Tesla.


State laws at issue appear to prohibit the sale through other than an independent intermediary. It is not unusual for companies to have exclusive contractual arrangements which also include many other stipulations.  In that regard, would it not be a reasonable solution for the “galleries” through which it displays and facilitates remote-purchase of its vehicles to be independent, to have territorially exclusive ability to non-electronically “show” the product, in exchange for being bound to strict operating requirements.  And included in such contract could be the payment by Tesla of the operating costs they would otherwise spend on the Galleries had they been owned by Tesla – protected by the operating requirements (which may be subject to revision yada yada yada).Electric discharge showing the lightning-like ...


Perhaps this is too naive as an outsider perspective, but in essence, the facilities would be light-weight and lean virtual art galleries with physical examples as well.   Disruption is sometimes mostly in mindset.  In looking at the requirements (on the Motor Vehicles pages of a few states – for example NJ or VA) there are specific requrements, but they do not seem insurmountable (NJ requires TWO vehicles) relative to what may already be in place in an existing Tesla Gallery.





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The logo. from Wikipedia

Remember 1984 and the launch of CompuServe Mall?  Well here’s something you can still get from it: Freedom!

Here’s a great writeup of how Newegg cracked the shell on this patent boondoggle that has been siphoning off millions based on “shopping cart” network sales patents US5715314 and US5909492 and this access monitoring and control patent US7272639.

In a nutshell, the fact that the same such commerce was facilitated by CompuServe Mall nearly 15 years prior to these patents means that buying/selling stuff electronically (regardless of whether it was dial-up or always-on) was “obvious” or not novel.




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Sand Hill Road sign from 280 north. Image via Wikipedia

Earlier this week, I attended the VANJ Entrepreneurs Expo & Elevator Pitch Olympics, (VANJ stands for the Venture Association of NJ) primarily to explore paths for a current client. This was a healthy mix of education and marketing, from multiple perspectives including: business and entrepreneurship support entities and associations; professionals; consultants; investors; and early-stage startups and some ventures a bit futher along.  Among the support entities was an alphabet soup of communities, associations, publishers, and institutions such as NJBIN (a network of 12 incubators), NJTC, NJEF, NJSBDC, NJBIZ, NJ Entrepreneur, FDU’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship and NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, and NJ (among others).  There was a helpful panel comprised of professionals and investors (both VC and angels) – each of which first provided an overview of their perspective on what they look for in a pitch and investment opportunity.  They then judged the 20+ pitches which followed, judging them on pitch presentation and their sense of the fundability of each opportunity.

Diagram of venture capital fund structure for ...Image via Wikipedia

I won’t go into the individual companies that presented, but their presentations each consisted of a brief (2 minutes), clear and concice explanation of what they do (in terms of the problem they seek to solve and how they solve it), the challenges they face and how they intend to overcome them, the success they’ve experienced thus far in a quantifiable form and where that is relative to the size of the opportunity, how much they need to get there, and how they intend to use the funds they seek in order to get there.

In addition to being informative, it was a good opportunity to self-assess in the terms that the other startups were looking to satisfy in their own presentations, and to exercise some proclivities – which for me, includes naming and word play…  (I was, after all, sitting next to the person who came up with the name for Viagra!)  The atmosphere certainly got the ideas flowing – yielding my own suggesting to VANJ president, Jay Trien, a phrase for describing their efforts: that “VANJ is doing a service by being an eVANJelist for business and entrepreneurship in the state”.

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Created by :en:User:Fcb981Image via Wikipedia

The potential impact on the economy from removing burdens around health care should not be underestimated as a means of stimulus.  For many, fixing the system could mean enormous savings, if not just improved quality of life and perhaps care.

The solution to our health care situation goes beyond regulation; it lies in changing the focus.  The intention should be about “well-being”, and all measurement and compensation for parties to system of “well being” should be driven by the success of the program.  The parties include not just the doctors, but all those engaged in the health care processes: the medical insurance companies, malpractice insurers, the pharma and device companies, and extending all the way to those providing therapy and fitness services.

Differing time horizons need to be aligned.  Insurers may currently find it beneficial to make decisions based on short-term exposure, regardless of potential longer-term costs that could result from those decisions.  After all, it isn’t likely the patient will still be with the same insurer when the longer-term result is encountered.  The relationship (or at least the impact of it) needs to be made permanent.

Medical and life insurance should be integrated so that the insurers’ interest in sustaining you is aligned with their interest in maintaining you.  The medical portion of premiums should be driven in part by your relative wellness (not just relative to where you should be, but to where you’ve been) and in part by the risks you take and the choices you make about your wellness.  Participation in activities that are shown to improve health and reduce risks should be rewarded, while costs should be attached to lack of participation and to risky activity.

Doctors who participate in this wellness driven system would benefit from streamlined  administrative processes, not having to process and re-process while fighting for payment.  For their participation, they will also have access to more reasonable malpractice coverage.  Beyond the direct impact on the medical process, these changes alone should make it attractive again to pursue careers in medicine.

Compensation under this plan would be based, in part, on relative wellness achieved – the wellness performance of those under their care.  This is in contrast to payment based on Relative Value Units, which is similar to the way your auto mechanic gets paid.  Objectives of insurers too need to be redefined to be driven by wellness in this way too – particularly at the outset of the plan.  Over time, as the balance of costs shift as a result of preventive care generating longer term savings, artificial incentives should become less economically important for proper motivation.  Treatments will be driven toward solving problems rather than addressing symptoms, and away from allowing perpetual treatment and profit from such.

There are many aspects beyond these to be considered, but only through  review of the full spectrum of the roles in this dynamic, with consideration as to how to achieve some of the objectives for each – and with agreement as to what problem(s) we’re trying to solve, can interests be aligned – not just on a particular purpose, but with a long view.

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© Guerito 2005Image via WikipediaAs an update related to my earlier post on the Oregon idea for a mileage tax in place of the gasoline tax:  Here’s a case where the model of cost-per-mile could actually make sense – but not as a road-maintenance related tax.  Instead, this furthers the green and energy independence aspects that the mileage tax would discourage.  In this case, the cost per-mile concept underlies a quicker shift by consumers to electric vehicles.  Better Place is working on transforming the auto market to work more like the communications industry, where the consumer pays for service/minutes – in this case miles.  In doing so, it looks to shift a major expense factor of EVs to being acquired over time – not altogether different from the way we buy fuel for our gas powered cars over time – not all at once.  (I’m calling the auto industry under this scenario the “commutications industry.”)

In addition to looking to make charging ports ubiquitous, for topping-off the battery whenever parked, the concept  involves battery swapping stations, whereby drivers would pull in when they need a fill-up, and rather than charging the battery that is in their car, a hot one would be swapped in on the fly – in the time that it would take for an ordinary gas fill-up.  The batteries in this case would not be owned by the consumer, but would be part of the subscription or service plan.

Circling back to a point that I made in the earlier post – different cars have different levels of economy/efficiency – so owners of lower economy cars should bear some added cost, beyond just per-mile.  This can’t just be a matter of how much juice is used, since some batteries will have better retention / performance – and these being the property of the company… (well, you get the point).

Service can manifest in a range of ways – from people getting the service for a car they themselves purchase, to cars being provided as part of the service (much like a free phone provided under a phone service plan).  Interestingly, Better Place is also pushing governments to require participants in this market to comply with standards – so from the beginning, there won’t be competing standards (e.g. HD vs Blu-ray) which could delay our reaching energy independence by slowing adoption while people wait to see which standard would take.

None of this solves Oregon’s road maintenance revenue issue.  In fact it underscores the problem.  Increasing the gas tax, though, would keep the pedal to the metal (so to speak) in driving (pun intended) out gas engines there.  If the Better Place service providers do master mileage metering however,  that could address the technical issues behind the proposed tax, and serve as a substitute once the gas guzzlers are all gone.

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UPDATE to my 7/29 post on the use of semantic technology in finance:

Talis has posted issue 3 of Nodalities, which contains the full full article on the subject.

Wall Street Sign.Image via Wikipedia

Look for tangible examples of semantic technology being employed, and you often encounter government and life sciences projects, NLP enhanced search services (such as Hakia or Cuil), or the much written about systems such as Freebase or Twine, where the semantic aspects are related to how the information in them is connected (TrueKnowledge brings the semantics closer to the surface).

For the 2008 Semantic Technology Conference, its organizers (Semantic Universe) wanted to take a look at what is going on in terms of applying these capabilities within a few sectors. For this, I organized a panel to discuss the use of the related tools within the financial space. What follows is a summary of an article I wrote on what we learned. The full writeup is in the latest issue of Talis’ Nodalities Magazine (see Issue 3, which is full of great material).

The long and the short of the discoveries were:
– There is in fact work going on here;
– the most visible of which is in financial publishing;
– and most paradigmatic, it seems, is the potential in financial reporting

The article includes perspectives shared during the panel session, which Dr. Christian Halaschek-Wiener, CTO of Clados Management, moderated – as well as descriptions of activities from some who were not able to join us. Key in digging into the topic was consideration of different realms within “finance”, and the business processes within those realms:

§ EDI/Transaction Enablement: Ioachim Drugus (SemanticSoft) EDI related work in Transaction Enablement/Management for the realm of Trading;
§ Credit Ratings: JR Gardner (Digitas) explained large Credit Rating Agency use of taxonomies, ontologies, RDF and OWL to enable interoperability of enterprise systems. Kendall Clark (Clark & Parsia) explained later that their Moodys had motivated and sponsored the recently released version of the Pellet reasoner.
§ Insurance: Jonathan Mack (Guardian Life) gave an Insurance perspective and discussed implementation within large enterprise.
§ Banking: David Palaitis (Citi) shared during our planning efforts that their use of RDF and ontologies for a Fixed Income group to improve the functioning of a legacy Regulatory Compliance system. Similarly, Shahin Nassiri (JP Morgan) outlined having defined a business process taxonomy, and maping applications to that taxonomy using OWL.
§ Identity Management: Tom Ilube (Garlik) couldn’t stay for the panel, but explained their applicability to the consumer needs in banking and finance, with identity monitoring and management built on semantic architecture.
§ Information Industry: Christine Connors (Dow Jones), and Tom Tague (Thomson-Reuters /Calais) shared what they and their media organizations are doing around direct delivery of financial information, with discussion of semantics for machines and people, respectively.
§ Information Services: Leo Keller (Netbreeze) and YY Lee (FirstRain) shared how they utilize NLP and classification capabilities to scour global content and serve up processed information in function-specific wrappers for segments of the financial community.
§ Financial Reporting: Eric Cohen (PriceWaterhouse Coopers) explained the potential impact that XBRL could have on the financial information landscape – from reporting and processing of financial information, to its distribution and analysis. Related to this, Elmar Drewitz (DrewITz Consulting) is working on XBRL to OWL mechanization for transformation of financial reports.

So the value propositions exposed through this effort included not just search efficiency, data integration and interoperability – but business process management, increased delivery speed, security, and user experience/usability, to name a few. Significantly, we also saw that the financial world’s leveraging of these technologies is to come not just of efforts from within, but from the providers of information services to it.

Be sure to read the full article for more detail. Hopefully this is the beginning of the conversation. Where and how else are you seeing these tools being implemented within and/or for financial purposes?

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Talis’ Paul Miller just posted about a panel he moderated on facilitating ‘unexpected re-use’ of data, during which participants discussed ways they’ve seen their work having created “unanticipated opportunities to push data in new directions”. I wasn’t present, and this may have been part of that discussion, but as interesting as the “push” he mentions (and perhaps even more in keeping with the ultimate goal, if there is such a thing) would be the “pull” of data to unanticipated purposes and by unexpected parties – and the opportunities to do so.

It makes sense that the “push” perspective is being discussed within the development and evangelist perspectives. Paul points out that the discussion emphasized (as I’ve also done here in the past) that adoption (by investors, companies and end users) is not driven by applications being semantic or based upon semantic technologies, but by their addressing and solving real needs. That perspective is typically driven by the end user and by those who look to enable and capitalize upon addressing their real needs in terms that resonate with them.

Not only would it be “interesting to repeat the experience [of his panel] at… business-oriented event[s] such as next week’s Semantic Technology or Linked Data Planet in June” – but this is exactly what is necessary to begin to bridge from the former perspective to the latter – to help people begin to understand and start to formulate where those opportunities to “pull” may lie.

Bridging this gap is the objective of the session I’ve organized for next week’s Semantic Technology Conference (posted about previously) – to paint the spectrum of a the financial domain and examine application of semantic technologies within needs and processes within its sub-domains. Through this effort, we’ll hopefully thinking and discussion across the lines of the sub-sectors, and foster thought around cross utilization and new ways to make use.

As usual, last night’s NY Semantic Web Meetup was a pleasure, with presentations from/on Hakia and DERI (Linking Open Data), a lively group, and lots of conversation.

In one of my side-conversations, we dug a bit into the concept of “traversing”, not just to travel across associations, but to applying patterns of associations to people and situations that exhibit subsets of those same patterns, to expose opportunities. To the business, this is cross-marketing, to the analyst, this is pattern recognition and application. One participant in the conversation voiced the sentiment that this may be a key gateway to leveraging semantics for revenue generation.

Speaking of running for the money – and in the spirit of traversing, my wife is doing a little of her own “connecting ideas for the creation of value”. She’s run a few marathons before, but by dedicating her upcoming Boston Marathon run to something that matters to her, (her story about what/why… starts half-way down her page) she’s threaded across otherwise disparate areas of interest. While not everyone who has contributed is a runner, she’s clearly (judging by the numbers) tapped threads of common interest in cancer research.

Ultimately, powerful leveraging of semantic capabilities will enable greater networking and cross-connecting, or traversing, to occur in ways that are more graceful (perhaps less personal, but hopefully not) than were used in the example above, but in any case, toward the end of connecting ideas and creating value.

One of the projects I’m working on at the moment (building a Financial Track for the Semantic Technology Conference) ties together a couple of personal threads of interest – and in the process I’m discovering some interesting things going on out there. While attention tends to be drawn to cool gizmos and social hype, there’s a quiet creeping of semantic tools into “real world” uses, for real needs, if not competitive advantage.

As I’ve described in value network discussion, it is through latching onto already existing activities, that mechanisms not obviously associated to end-users objectives (but which underlie achievement of them) become adopted in the main-stream (as the bed of the stream – where cool gizmos might alternatively be the visible banks of the stream in this analogy -  beneath it all is the real stuff). I digress (sort of).

And this is the “stuff” of the conference session I’ve organized, which features examples from different financial sub-sectors (banking, asset management, real estate, insurance…) in support of numerous functional purposes (research, credit analysis, compliance, risk management…) for a number of value objectives (efficiency, thoroughness, flexibility, security, usability, profitability…).

Let me know about examples you’re aware of in this space.

By the way, if you plan to attend, you can use this discount code (ST8EH) to save $200 when you register, on top of the $100 you save by registering by April 21!