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Milken Institute Global Conference Highlights Through the Eyes of Todd Harrison


Lessons learned from America's left coast.

  • Advertising buys are being targeted to a segmented, desired audience rather than the traditional "home page" buy; entirely more efficient.

  • Viral, word-of-mouth platforms have organic and powerful bases. The "input-output" model is here; device agnostic content will flourish.

  • David Liu, Head of Digital Media and Internet at Jefferies & Co (JEF) offered that properties that tap "the value proposition vs. the value gap" with social utility and a segmented market approach are desirable.

  • There is an emergence of category brands "focused on helping people" with a loyal following (this struck a chord for obvious reasons).

  • Online video advertising market is $1 billion w 15-20% growth.

  • There is a huge opportunity to create a "defining brand," particularly with 80M-90M millennials coming, who will eventually rule the earth.

  • Michael Steib, director of emerging platforms and TV ads at Google, "If you make good content, people will enjoy it and you'll make money; it's the same as in the last 70 years."

  • "Don't underestimate the value of talent."

  • Advertising and marketing brands can be the content. There is an opportunity to immerse the message. If it adds value to your life, the origination doesn't matter.

  • Brand trust is the single biggest determinant of sticky and successful websites and platforms.

  • How do you build trust? Be human, it's a rarity in media for a brand to speak back to their audience. This is a huge point; brands need to have conversations with their community in real-time. Listen intently to your audience feedback. If there is a visceral reaction, hear it.

  • What do you think about that?

  • Just as you can build an online brand quickly, so too can you destroy it. Small businesses that don't pay attention to emerging technology -- Yelp, Google Local, etc -- are "nuts."

  • The next panel I attended? The View from Venture Capitalists.

  • IPO markets typically follow the stock market by one to two quarters; the current IPO market is less than half of the pre-2000 boom. Structural change or reversion to the mean?

  • Brook Byers, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, offered that this recession is different; it's not a normal business cycle. 2008 and 2009 were expected to be great IPO years in Silicon Valley.

  • Normal response is to protect existing investments vs. search for new opportunities on roughly a 50/50 ratio; that shifted to 90/10 (existing to new).

  • Kate Mitchell, MD, Scale Venture Partners and Chairman-Elect, National Venture Capital Association, offered that the key theme continues to be jobs. (Are you noting a trend here? This issue was not only prevalent throughout the conference, it was consistent across a multiple of topics and industries).

  • 21% of GDP is from venture backed companies; growth rates twice that of traditional organizations.

  • Industry is being right-sized after the 100-year flood. At the peak of the bubble, there were roughly 600 VC funds; that dropped down to around 75.

  • Reduced capital will drive target venture returns. It's a great time to build, although it doesn't feel that way.

  • John Albright, MD JLA Ventures and BlackBerry Partners Fund, sees a handheld boom sequel that will be bigger than the first. Mobile growing three times as fast as desktop and content providers are scrambling. We need to feed the ecosystem of mobile computing, "Address the congestion," decrease cost per bit, monetize mobile cloud solutions, note the gaming, and travel secular tailwinds and huge opportunities in BRIC countries.

  • Management teams trade at a premium. There are opportunities to be shrews. 4X returns are elusive.

  • Lisa Lambert, MD, Software and Services, Intel Capital: Three goals for its investments: a strategic fit, financial return and macro profile. Little known fact: Intel (INTC) is eighth globally in software.

  • Entrepreneurs are "external R&D."
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