My New Year’s message

Lena says Happy New Year!

My 3-year-old niece Elena with a message to you.

If you’d told me at the beginning of 2011 that I’d be returning to my journalism roots and appearing regularly on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, I never would’ve believed it.

2011 was a crazy year. It was full of many highs and lows, sometimes at the same time. The highs were public, the lows have largely been private. (But my writing — and your reading of it — has really helped offset the lows.)

I spent a lot of 2011 feeling like I was living someone else’s life. There were many scenes that would look totally made up if you saw them in a movie. One quick example:

I was supposed to go on CNBC for an interview, but didn’t have a jacket pressed. I found a dry cleaner who claimed to offer same-day pressing. I got there at 3 p.m. She said initially it was too late. I pressed her that I needed to be on TV. She asked what I was going to talk about. I explained that I was going to talk about Groupon. She got a little defensive and asked what I was going to say about Groupon. Not wanting to pollute her experience, I had her tell her story first. She ran a Groupon and had few new customers, many of the buyers were existing customers.

My jacket was pressed in 30 minutes, while I took a call from an investment bank about Groupon.

I re-discovered what makes Silicon Valley a truly magical place: the people. I met a lot of amazing people, including Tristan Walker, Semil Shah, Marc Bodnick, Charlie Cheever, Adam D’AngeloSara Huth, Keith Rabois, Megan Quinn, Emily Chang, Cory Johnson, Jon Stull, Jon Fortt, Rob Bailey, Andy McLoughlin, Jeff Pomeroy, Peter Pham, Mark RogowskyJeff Clavier, Ted Zagat and Emily White. Outside of the Valley proper, but still part of the same community, I was excited to meet with Angus Davis, Brian Norgard, Andrew Skotzo, Brian Roemmele, Rick Summer, Alex Meshkin, David Mihm, Ben Hatten,  Brad FeldErick Schonfeld and James Hritz.

There’s a list just as long of amazing people I couldn’t meet in 2011 because of scheduling issues, but hope to meet in 2012.

Silicon Valley isn’t perfect by any means. But it is one of the most meritocratic places on Earth. We accept people with non-standard academic backgrounds. We accept people of all ethnic backgrounds and immigration status (within the law). We accept failure. We accept and celebrate it when some wants to take  9 months off bike around Asia after a big win.

Here are the trends that I see in the upcoming years:

  1. Continued focus on the integration of online and offline commerce. As much as I’ve beaten up on Groupon for their business practices and business model flaws, they deserve credit for blazing a path for other entrepreneurs (or possibly even Groupon) to find the right products. American Express is one of the best positioned in the space.
  2. Significant changes in the way we consume television and movie content. I don’t think my 3-year-old niece will ever live in a world where she is waiting for anything other than live programming to start. By and large, this is a business model and channel conflict issue, not a technology issue. Unfortunately, there are many established interests that don’t want to see the future. But a really positive sign is that even companies like Comcast are investing in innovation and things like iPad apps.
  3. More services that increase efficiency in markets for local services. More and better from Square, Uber and Cherry fall into this bucket.
  4. More involvement with Washington. Issues like copyright, fair use, first-sale doctrine, patents, immigration, network neutrality, privacy and antitrust will get more and more attention. As the current fight over SOPA shows, Silicon Valley is awful at playing the Washington game. Although we can dismiss Washington as irrelevant, that would be a huge mistake.
  5. Increasing power of Amazon. Although many have focused on the Google-Facebook rivalry, Amazon is becoming a monster rival in its own right. It’s essentially the largest shopping search engine, providing results not only from its own inventory but also from other retailers across the world. It’s a logistics machine. With Kindle and its mobile apps, it’s putting a storefront in every pocket that dramatically increases Amazon’s threat to retailers who sell commoditized products.
  6. Rise of healthy living technologies. Our health-care system is so screwed up that we’ve built it largely in a way to profit from people being sick. I love the trend of companies like fitbit, Jawbone and Withings to make a profit by getting people healthier. Make things easier to track and people will do more of it.
  7. More natural user interfaces and intuitive design. It was fascinating to watch my niece jabbing at my laptop screen expecting it do something. She took to my phone naturally, flipping through pictures and watching videos. Apple had a great first launch with Siri. Kinect still has a lot of potential beyond gaming.

And then there’s mobile, Apple and Facebook, three of the biggest forces that will continue changing the core of how we live our lives.

I’ll be writing about these things and more in 2012.

Thanks for reading and engaging with me in 2011. Although I can’t personally respond to everyone, I do read your emails and tweets.

Happy New Year!

Some other great New Year’s reads from my friends:


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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5 Responses to My New Year’s message

  1. Pingback: Silicon Valley may be too smart for its own good | VentureBeat

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  5. Your niece is cute. How old is she? Hoping to see more of your blogs this year. You’re a good blogger if I may say so.

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