Thursday, July 15, 2010

Klaus Event

Chris Klaus spoke this evening at the Georgia Tech College of Computing building that bears his name. Klaus made his fortune as founder and former CTO of Internet Security Systems, a company he started while still a Tech student in 1990. He has stepped down as CTO, and is the CEO and founder of Kaneva, a 3-D virtual world.

His talk focused on trends in gaming, advice about technology start-ups, and bringing the gaming industry to Georgia. A lot of people were interested in what he had to say. There was a sizable crowd, and before and after the talk there was time for networking. This was the lowest female to male ratio I've experienced in a long time, and that's saying a lot at Tech. That could be because there were so many Tech alumni there, and in earlier years the ratio was even less balanced than now. The majority, though not all, of the attendees were Tech affiliated, so I got plenty of chances to respond, "No, I'm a Tech alum" when people asked if I was a Tech student. The novelty hasn't worn off yet.

It was really cool to be able to converse about some of my research interests with people who are knowledgeable about related topics and have come by their expertise in different ways. The people I met were not in academia, but mostly worked in the private sector or had their own business or non-profit. It was a great way to close my last day of work at CACP, because in talking with so many people, I got a better picture of just how much I have learned both through CACP and through earlier experiences. I can finally talk about my background and interests with some degree of coherence because I can finally see some degree of coherence.

The speech emphasized several themes and trends that are garnering lots of attention lately. For virtual worlds he mentioned scalability and simulation capacity. He provided a useful phrase, augmented reality, to describe a trend, being facilitated by wireless mobile devices, of the real and the virtual increasingly interacting. Examples he gave were MyTown, Zillo, and geotagged games. He also used the word freemium to describe games and software that is offered free, with charges for upgrades. This is the business model he foresees having growing success, associated with the trend moving from value in content to value in aggregation. And of course, the really big deal trends are user generated content (so big it gets an acronym, UGC) and crowdsourcing (so big they had to make up a word for it).

None of these trends were new to me, but what was new was hearing them described in unabashed relation to earning lots and lots of money. At work, I do consider how virtual worlds and online gaming can improve employment, expand the economy, or earn people a living, but it never even crossed my mind to wonder how I could earn money by them. That is probably a useful exercise. I love to theorize about the economy in the abstract, but am quite out of touch with actual money and business. Klaus talked about using venture capital, angel investors, and technology incubators, all of which I understand in theory, but I wouldn't know the first thing about actually approaching them with an actual business plan. Do you just google search for venture capitalists and call them up?

Klaus gave a list of metrics that venture capitalists pay attention to when deciding if they will invest in your tech start-up. These include acquisition (getting people to your site), activation (getting people to sign up), referral (getting people to tell their friends), retention (getting people to come back), and revenue (getting paid).

He mentioned a techie news site he likes, Techmeme, which is a prime example of the "gatewatching" trend I mentioned in a previous post. Klaus also mentioned the Glitch program, run by Georgia Tech and Morehouse College, that brings in high school students to test video games and get excited about computer science over the summer. And finally, it was highly amusing when someone during the Q&A asked Klaus if he had heard of Second Life (Kaneva's biggest competitor).

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you, once again, only lasted a few weeks. ;)