Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on May13, 2011

Keynote Address:

Charles Stack
CEO, Sideways LLC

While many adults may condemn the episodic attention span and extreme multitasking ability of younger people as a character defect, serial entrepreneur Charles Stack told the OVA at its May luncheon that "ambient vigilance" is a fact of life for younger generations, and also a potential source of opportunity for smart investors and entrepreneurs.

"I've been studying attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity for about 50 years, on a very personal level," he said. While ADD wasn't diagnosed when he was growing up, his childhood report cards carried the unmistakable mark of a kid who never quite paid full attention. Nevertheless, it worked out pretty well for him in adulthood.

Stack is one of Northeast Ohio's leading serial entrepreneurs. He founded Books.com in 1992, three years before the dawn of the Internet era and well before Amazon.com began its rise as the leading web retailer. At one point in the '90s, he owned such prime web real estate as books.com, movies.com, music.net and Cleveland.com (which he later sold to the Plain Dealer). "He pioneered most of the features that we now take for granted with Internet retailing," OVA president Jonathan Murray noted in his introduction. More recently, Stack founded the software firm Flashline, later selling it to BEA (which in turn was later sold to Oracle). Sideways is his fourth company.

Today, with continuous partial attention more the rule than the exception with younger generations, Stack sees lots of opportunities to capitalize on that ability to consume more media in shorter interstitial doses of a person's time.

In his presentation, Stack touched on the "unbelievable adoption rate" of electronic tablets such as the iPad. "They're selling 5-8 million a quarter now. They sold 15 million last year, they'll sell maybe 20 to 25 million this year," he noted, arguing that it's qualitatively different than what's come before. About three-quarters of those with an iPad spend between 1-5 hours a day using it. "That's a big slice of our 360-degree attention. And if you're in any business that impacts the consumer, your eyeballs just went somewhere else, and you'd better follow them. I guess that's the first investment advice I want to pass along."

He went on to outline a half-dozen possible investment opportunities that capitalize on continuous partial attention, including using the iPad as an adjunct to television. "There's a lot of stuff you can do there, around games, gaming, product placement, advertising, background information on what's being displayed. I would say that's probably a huge opportunity."

There are also opportunities with live sporting events to create back channels to the event, he said, as well as the in-flight environment, where he pictures smart programs that give a traveler information on places they're flying over. And while he said he knows little about bars and clubs, he can easily imagine attractive opportunities there, as well. He also expressed bullishness about mobile applications in university environments (he's now working with a large university on a project involving, of all things, the Shakespeare play Macbeth).

The underlying connection between all these environments: short messages. "The types of entertainment that are successful today are very different than they were for a prior generation. The distinguishing characteristic so far is they are much shorter. When we first started doing videos online, people would do half-hour videos, like situation comedies. Everyone quickly learned that three minutes was about the tolerance level. So the standard form factor for online videos is about three minutes. The same thing happened for music."

He hailed Amazon's recent introduction of Kindle Singles (short e-books) as "basically books for the ADD generation."

More information:

Webcast from the Meeting:

Click on the image below to view the entire presentation as video.

Video Webcast from Recent Meeting
Webcasts produced by Tom Kondilas.

Recent Meetings:

June 10, 2011
Venture of the Year Award
Recipient: Turning Technologies
Award Finalists: ABS Materials and SageQuest

See complete details and registration for these events.

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