May 23, 2007 SDF Teen Tech 5: VC

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On Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at the Hewlett-Packard Auditorium in Palo Alto, SDForum presented “Next Generation Tech: Teens Plugged In!” This is part five of a series on teens and technology focusing on investing in teens.

Josh Jaffe is a Senior Writer for The Deal, covering technology around the world. He moderated a panel on VC and Digital Usage. The topic was ‘What Do the Marketers Know About Teens? How Do You Invest in Teens as Consumers and Entrepreneurs?’

Chi-Hua Chien of Accel works in digital media, online advertising, information markets, and the consumer Internet. He was involved with BitTorrent, Facebook, Kosmix, and YuMe Networks, and Coremetrics. In the 1990s he noticed a five year-old text messaging is now graduating from high school. Teens are looking for entertainment. He sees more growth in integrating all the forms of communication, from IM to voice. He sees more growth in virtual worlds as seen in South Korea but not yet in the United States. If you want venture capital, he recommends young people think about building their business to either go public or sell to another business. You have to think about gaining or controlling market share to be attractive.

Ameer Karim is the Director of Product Marketing at Hewlett-Packard. He is looking at future technologies, market trends and working with consumers to understand and enable the digital home. Reaching teens is more difficult than previous generations. HP’s Snapfish is a heavily used website promoted with viral marketing on social networking websites and blogs.

Tim Kendall is Product Manager for Facebook, the site preferred by teens and college students over MySpace. Everyone at Facebook is a customer so it is easy to design products you would use. He attributes their success to their clean consistent interface is easier to use and control. Voyeurism and vanity play a big part to Facebook. There are people who want to be seen and people who want to watch. Facebook tries to balance both. They do lots of research and know that teens influence parents in technology, becoming the family’s IT managers. Youth are more likely to use tablet technology to take notes in school.

Larry Magid is a technology journalist for CBS and the New York Times and an Internet Safety Advocate. Talked about dangerous people and teens online. While most teens are safe from online threats, there are always kids at risk. They would have been at risk in the 1950s, it is just their access to technology and vulnerability is increasing. Teens are most at risk from people they know. MySpace is taking steps to make its site safer. Teens will be attracted to the same things as anyone else: good value, good design and reasonable products. He hopes that teens will develop a passion for saving the planet rather than what PC they will use.

Sergio Monsalve, Principal, Norwest Venture Partners says that these are highly communicative people. He worked at Photobucket with 25 million users serving 50 billion pictures. Young women were sharing 2000 pictures a month. He saw similar statistics at eBay. He thinks you need to develop a service rather than product, something used continuously. SMS will continue to grow in functionality. Multiplayer games and entertainment will grow. Beyond technology there have to be really good creators of content. There just are not that many funny people. They barriers to entry are lower and the chances for success are greater. He recommends young people build a company and then bring it to Norwest for growth.

Anne-Marie Roussel, Director, Strategic and Emerging Business at Microsoft, manages their entertainment portfolio. She points out that teens use technology to socialize. They see it as a part of their life. She was concerned at how few teens at this event used a Zune. Teens have more buying power than before. Microsoft works directly with high school and college students about designing interfaces for PCs and the Xbox. An example is a product like Melodus, where you hum a song into your cell phone and identifies the song and artists.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.