Around the Dot

30 March 2007

The Blue Curtain
One of the best classes I took at London Business School was Brand Management with Mark Ritson whom I mentioned a couple of times in this blog (here, here and wow! here). One of the things Mark tells his class which amused me and is so true is that the best exercise in branding is the blue curtain that separates the first class from the rest of the cabine on an airplane.

Mark's theory is that many a marketer wish he had such a way to create a premium offer and justify a premium price. Bottom line, you do feel like shit when you seat in the first rows of the economy class and the flight attendants close this blue curtain. In our quite egalitarian world, I think it's one of the rare occasion where you can feel so blatantly segregated on a purely "these people paid more than you" reason (like the third class on trains in the 19th century?).

I was actually reminded of this when flying business class on Thai thanks to Amex when I relocated in Sydney 2 months ago and again today while reading this great account in the Guardian of how 16-year-old Elliot Castro turned into a mini modern Frank Abagnale Jr. (the 60's cheque-and-airline con who inspired Catch Me if You can).

The cabin was dark. My family were sleeping. I clambered over my mum and could see more rows of sleeping people, and in the distance something else, a long, grey curtain that blocked the aisle.

My interest caught, I walked towards it. As I neared the curtain, I could hear laughter and the clink of glasses. It was a tiny cabin, and looked quite different from ours. The seats were enormous; with their leather coating and footrests, they looked like the chairs in the barber's back in Logie.

Here the lights shone brightly, picking out the gold in the uniforms of the women who seemed to be everywhere I looked. They strode up and down the wide aisle, bending over the passengers and laughing. I turned and saw a man sitting alone in the back row. He was in a suit. He had glasses and a ring on his finger that were both made of gold, and in a small metal bowl on his tray there was a cigar. He looked over and saw me frozen in appreciation of him and this room in which he sat. He knew why I was standing there and why I was so transfixed. He didn't know, of course, what opening that curtain would mean for my life.

And later on, the curtain is clearly a rite of passage:

I'd achieved my goal of international travel. Even better, I had made it past the grey curtain.

Ah... the blue curtain...

20 March 2007

France - UK, Import/Export
In case you care about the French language, aujourd'hui c'est la 12ème Journée de la Francophonie (12th Day of the Franch Language). So you might want to check what's hapenning near you - maybe some wine and cheese tasting? ;)

I had planned to go to see a French movie to celebrate, taking advantage of the French Film Festival here is Sydney but unfortunately, Raquel wasn't feeling well...

Anyway, this is a nice opportunity to notice the growing number of French expats around the world.

French people settling in the UK is a recurrent BBC topic for instance (I was even part of one of their article). And here is the last article in the series.

The whole part about French writer Marc Levy sucks (IMHO) but there are some gems:

[Penny Zoldan] said her agency, Latitudes, sold about 500 properties a year and estimated that more than 500,000 Britons owned property in France - many more than French people own in Britain.

But there are certainly increasing numbers of French people coming to live in the UK - most of them young, the majority living and working in London. [...]

And it is an often overlooked fact that there are almost three times as many Germans than French who are resident in the UK.

Interesting to note also that the official number of "Frogs" in the UK is up 50% in 2 years - I remember an article saying the official consulate number was 200,000 in 2005 and it is now 300,000.

What is worrying is that most of the French living in London are dynamic, educated and young (like me? ;) and from what I gather not keen to go back to the motherland (which contradicts a part of the article). Meanwhile, her Majesty's subjects who decide to emigrate to France are older and, while bringing currencies, are not creating much value (apart from exporting the real estate bubble to rural places).

In that regards, this article didn't mention that the right candidate to the presidential election actually held an over-subscribed session in London a few months ago trying to lure some of the "elite" back if he wins, which I think shows how deep the problem is.

By the way, if you're interested in the French presidential elections, I suggest this "can't live without it" link to Le Monde which groups most polls. I still can't believe that if Francois Bayrou manages to make it to the second round, he would win against any other candidate... French people are up to a very interesting Spring... before we move to something serious - the Rugby world cup!

Google - Time for Beta to 2.0?
Interesting article yesterday from the FT Online stating that "Wall Street seems to be losing patience with how long Google 2.0 is taking to build – and how expensive the project is turning out to be."

My suggestion? It's time to rush some services out of Beta and into 2.0 mode, ready with juicy cash-flows. I'd guess Gmail makes for a decent share of Adsense eyeballs and still... it's in beta and it has more potential (community, newsletter?).

On that topic, I had a closer look at the Google Apps initiative which I'm considering using it to start a mini-intranet for my family (links things like Gmail, Calendar, etc with an admin panel, allowing to use your own domain name). Even though not the new killer app that investors are looking for, it's quite promising and I would be worried if I had a business in that space.

18 March 2007

In OZ - our adventures in Australia
I have finally found some time this week end to put together all the things I had been preparing (layout, pictures, some posts) with the help of Raquel and as a result...

TADA! inOZ has now been officially launched!

And so you can follow our (small) adventures and life in Sydney... with pictures!*

* courtesy of Google - I was always reluctant to do so but I have installed Picasa for the occasion and it's actually not too bad.

15 March 2007

Take the Money and Run
Unlike Virgil Starkwell, the main character of Woody Allen's flick "Take the Money and Run", I think some entrepreneurs got away with a lot.

Namely, YouTube's founders. According to Business Week (see p.2):

YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen received more than $300 million each in Google stock when their company was acquired.

Nifty. Isn't it?

At that time Google execs decided to go with it, sort of ignored the Napster precedent over copyright laws by putting aside a $200m provision and everybody celebrated.

Fast forward to this week: Viacom announce it would sue YouTube for $1.65bn, and they sound quite pissed judging by this jem in the FT:

Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s chief executive, expressed frustration that Google had not installed filtering technology to enable content companies more easily to determine when their material had been posted on YouTube. “Quite honestly, in my 20 to 25 years in this business, I’ve never encountered a major company which has behaved in such a wilful way for so long,” Mr Dauman said.

(well this is Hollywood after all so they are mainly acting like they are pissed to position themselves for a better settlement, and they like to show off, etc.). :)

So, will the big media siphon the tube? As stated by the FT today, commenting on the legal blur over online content sharing:

That would be a shame: digital behemoths can afford to face each other down, whether it is Microsoft facing down Google over its book digitisation project or Viacom v YouTube. But the YouTubes of the future cannot exist in such a tenuous legal environment. They need more clarity - or the next new new thing may never be born.

Meanwhile, Chad and Steve can enjoy a job well done... and to be fair, YouTube is such a nice service that a fraction of these $300m is well deserved... hmm, I wonder whether I can catch some Woody Allen on there. :)