Thursday, February 26, 2009

Internship and classes

As I anticipated in my other post, I am conducting an internship at Funambol (, a software start-up based in Redwood City, who is a supplier of push email and mobile synchronization solutions for billions of mobile phones. Funambol is also the largest mobile open source project in the world, tapping into a global community of 50,000 developers and project participants. The company distributes its open source software for free to end users and sells a commercial version to mobile device manufacturers, portals, independent software vendors, mobile operators and service providers. The internship focuses on marketing, and I work closely with Hal Steger, VP Marketing, and remotely with Stefano Maffulli, Community Manager, based in Italy. In fact, about half of the employees and all R&D are based in Pavia, Italy. My involvement is 9am-5pm Tue-Fri (on Mondays, until 3:30pm), save when there are events or special lectures (e.g. SCLL) organized by the school. I spend over 90% of this time at the company headquarters. The marginal rest consists in working remotely from home, including Skype calls with Stefano in Italy.

Funambol focused since its beginning on the mantra: “BlackBerry-alternative for the mass market”. More recently, they have been promoting an open source Mobile'We' solution for the rest of us, which is a reference to Apple's MobileMe sync service, except that Funambol is open and works with billions of phones, not just iPhones. Their business relates to the “disruptive technology” in the categorization proposed by Prof Hendershott in class, as it incorporates both elements of ideas in that category: 1) Mobile phones are becoming the personal computing platform in the near future for their convenience, portability and cost, and 2) However, mobile phones as personal platforms face a long journey to general adoption due to skepticism of being “found” everywhere and because of the high prices of smartphones. Push email is a necessary component of mobile computing, and some people speculate that it may supplant short text messaging (SMS) in the mid term.

The strategy that Funambol has chosen to enter the market follows the principle of going after a limited set of market segments, as explained by Prof Bruno in his class. Funambol focuses on five segments: mobile device manufacturers, portals, service providers, independent software vendors and mobile operators. Leads from small and medium businesses, governmental agencies and large enterprises outside the mobile industry, and individuals, are redirected to partners or the Funambol community for assistance. This strategy enables Funambol to focus its R&D, sales and marketing resources on high value customers as well as meet the needs of its broader user base and community, a process the company refers to as 'Funambolism' (walking a tightrope).

Prof Griffith told us how to analyze the features of a product to clarify the marketing message, and how to make “intangible” features trigger more “tangible” motivations from the customer’s side. Funambol, as aforementioned, is the leading mobile open source project, which means that tens of thousands of developers worldwide contribute code to the Funambol project. Communicating the advantages of this approach to customers is not easy. Funambol’s marketing message verges on the concept of being able to work with “billions of mobile phones” worldwide, which is a large percentage of the estimated 3.5 billion mobile phones worldwide. This is because Funambol’s mobile client software is adapted by community developers for their handsets and then made available to the community. In this way, Funambol supports the broadest possible array of handsets, much more than competitors. The message about support for “billions of phones” makes this complex mechanism more immediate, easier to grasp, and more “tangible”.

Working in Funambol changed my perception a lot of what it would be like working in a start-up. I come from a career in public research, having spent three years in universities and five years in public research centers. I thought that working in a start-up would be much different but instead it is quite similar. In a start-up (as in a research lab) everybody works very closely with the “practical matter”, i.e. there is very little distance from the typical employee (or researcher) and the product (or research project) being pursued. This is true at all levels, from the marketing assistant (my role as an intern) to top management. It is a team effort, and the free and fast circulation of critical information is seen as an asset, exactly the same way it is perceived in a good research lab. Furthermore, developing and marketing a product in a start-up is very similar to starting a multi-year project in research: in both, you develop a long-term vision, attract funds (or grants, for research), stay focused and keep your team focused (something researchers tend not to do all the time), and efficiently communicate results (publications) to gain credit for your next product (research line) and attract the most valuable people to work with you. Ah, and I had forgotten how much I like foosball.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Full immersion

printf("Hello world!\n");

This is Paolo, I am an Electric Electronic engineer (a "double E", as they say here in the Valley) who left hardware for software for a PhD in Computer Vision. That is more coherent that it may seem, as my specialization as a EE is in laser optics. So "light" is a constant in my life, as it is its speed in the physical world.

Let's make one point since the very beginning: The experience in the Valley is awesome! Before applying for the Certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship I was a bit skeptical. After 5 years of professional R&D and consulting it seemed bizarre to go back to school. Spending hours on books and abroad could actually slow my plans to start a technological company in Italy, so I took my time to decide whether applying for the program.

Now that I am here, I feel stupid I doubted coming. I find that the faculty at Santa Clara University has done a great job in putting together a course focused on entrepreneurship for scientific and technical people. Although there are for certain some things that can be proved in the course (and I understand that they will be improved next year), being at Santa Clara has advantages not limited to the academic curriculum...

There is a whole world out there! I am grasping the opportunity to participate in as many events as possible around the Valley. Earlier this week I have attended a VC TaskForce event ( where entrepreneurs were pitching for money in front of angel investors. Last week I listened to a talk by Guy Kawasaki, an "icon" of the Silicon Valley, as it has been said. He may be, for his own admittance, a failure as a venture capitalist, but he is endowed with exceptional communication and motivation skills that he directs at encouraging new entrepreneurs to get started. It was a very energetic experience indeed.

And these are only two examples. In the Valley there are entrepreneurs meetups almost every week, new and aspiring entrepreneurs can find infinite possibilities to test their ideas against opinions of other entrepreneurs and knowledgeable professionals. I have met so many entrepreneurs in these months that I cannot count them (my collected business cards stand for over 2 inches thick!).

Another important part of this experience is the internship. I chose to intern in marketing, something every good engineer considers as smoke in the eyes. I am changing my mind, marketing is essential to business and... not that easy either. I work with Hal Steger, Vice President of Marketing at Funambol ( - a startup doing open source push mail (they are The largest open source project for mobiles worldwide). Funambol has been founded by an Italian entrepreneur, Fabrizio Capobianco (, and has a development center in Italy. It is impressive how Fabrizio created such an effective and capable team, and how he runs the business from here and the R&D in Italy. There is a lot to learn in Funambol, apart from marketing...

for(i=0;i<100000;i++) {
printf("Take care!\n";}

Friday, January 30, 2009

IST - integrated surface technology

Ciao a tutti,

Mi chiamo Loren….mmhh…maybe I didn’t start with the right language.

I will start again.

Hi everybody,

Here is Lorenzo, one of the Fulbright BEST students (actually one of the “Tuscany-BEST”).

This is the first time I am writing in this Blog and I should have many things to write about me. But I don’t want to bore the tons of people who will read my post. So if you are interested about my bio this is my linkedIn page, and you can find there a lot of info:

Well, in this post I just would like to talk about the place where I am interning: IST (integrated surface technology – Integrated Surface Technologies is the provider of Repellix, a supermolecular ceramic coating which is used to watersafe electronic devices.

It is a “real” start-up, whatever it means. As a matter of fact they just start working on their project and they have no funding yet. So basically in the IST case “start-up” means “young and poor”, that is the best period of an entity’s life. It is actually a very nice place. The executives are all experienced, they basically all come from “Applied Materials” and they all have long years experience on the management side.

The company is quite small, with 5 executives and a bunch of other few employees which occasionally help the company in designing the product.

My role is to assist the VP in various activities, such as:

1. New market space analysis and business plan
  • Marine electronics
  • Toys
  • New hybrid laptop/web PCs
2. Demonstration assistance - preparing demo samples

3. Competitive analysis

So far the experience is exciting and very challenging and I am sure that in the next 5 weeks it will be even more useful.

Well, That’s all for the moment. I invite everyone who is interested about this conversation to contact me, through my LinkedIn contact or via e-mail:

Ciao ciao, Lorenzo

Dotcom life

And now I guess it's my turn... I am Daniele, one of the Fulbright BEST fellows!

A brief introduction: I come from a small town near Alessandria, in Northern Italy. I have got a MS degree in Telecommunication Engineering from Politecnico di Torino. I am now attending the last year of PhD in Electronic Engineering, at Politecnico di Torino. My research field is in the optical fibers technology: fiber sensors and lasers, and optical devices in general. I have achieved most of my results for applying signal processing to optics.

But my business experience, that I am acquiring at Santa Clara University, is leading me somewhere else. I will keep this topic in stand-by for a new post...

I am working at Experience Project (, the biggest online anonymous community in US. It is a startup company based in San Francisco, downtown; it takes me about two hours to get to work, and I commute almost everyday... During my internship I will work on strategic issues, for the expansion of community, basically for porting EP to the the smartphone market and entering non-US countries.

Working for a dotcom on market strategy means ranging from the very top level to the very bottom. In a startup, fewresources are allocated for market analysis, and workforce is more focused on programming and keeping the pace with the required rate of innovations. This means that decisions should be often taken in a while, on the basis of data but also of personal perceptions. I have been starting with financial data, market projections, trends and rumors, and following the way down, I have found myself browsing the EP website with an iPod Touch to get the feeling on how comfortable the website is for mobile access.

In the end, working for a community means to put a lot of yourself, your knowledge, your perspectives and your way to participate, in each decision. And keeping finger crossed, because you seldom know which are the real drivers.

Want to know more about Experience Project? Here's a TV show, on air two days ago on ABC television, and called "A view from the bay". Look at Armen, our CEO, interviewed at the show:

And then join us at EP, it's free and anonymous!

Stay tuned,


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Living in the Valley

Hi guys!
It's Riccardo from Silicon Valley, the best place to turn ideas into business! I am one of the Italian Fulbright-BEST (Business Exchange and Student Training) scholars studying entrepreneurship at the Santa Clara University during the 2008/09 a.y. Wow!
Let me give you a brief description of myself. One year ago, I got the Master Degree in Automation Engineering from the University of Padua, developing a navigation system for sailboats during the thesis. Afterward I came across the Fulbright scholarship, an opportunity to learn how to get a business from this idea we are!
Since my arrival in September 2008, I have been attending classes on Finance, Business Planning, and Marketing Strategy at the Leavey School of Business, a very amazing place to study! Moreover, during the Winter quarter I am interning for MobClix (see, a company that helps iPhone app developers ramp their business up. Here I am analyzing all the forces that compete in the Apple Store marketplace, focusing on pricing issues and marketing strategies.
I will give you news and pictures about the fun I have in the Valley in the next posts.

Stay tuned,


Friday, May 11, 2007

Among the Redwoods..

Hello guys!

Long time not talk to you…life here is so busy and now I finally understand what they meant when, the first week spent in Silicon Valley, a guy from BAIA told us: Trust me, you will forget to eat and you won’t have enough time to sleep! Gaetano, did you remember? It was Giorgio and we were in the Redwood Room of one of the nicest hotel in San Francisco! Ok, he was right, but when I think to the future and to how I will remember this wonderful experience, I realize the importance of this blog…it will be great to read again these notes and the comments left by people met here. We’ll be missing all of them and this blog will be a way to retrace moments spent together and to keep in touch! Sometimes I love technology!!!
Inside a tree..

So, coming back to our daily activities…at present I am working as an Intern in the Business Development Unit of CoMentis (formerly Athenagen), a private held biotech company located in South San Francisco.

Every day I commute from San Jose, it takes about 50 minutes…it’s a long trip, but fortunately I don’t travel alone but I do carpool with my dear flat-mate Valentina, cause she works in the city as well, so we can talk during the trip and also take advantage of the carpool lane in the freeway (it goes much faster and it‘s funny to overtake other cars!). Btw, my daily schedule is from 8.30 to 3.30, because later I have to be in Santa Clara for our evening classes starting at 5 pm. So far, I have enjoyed very much my working activity at CoMentis: I mean, everything is pretty new for me…I have never worked before in the business field, dealing with finance and accounting stuff…but is so interesting to learn new things and in activities like competitive intelligence analysis or companies evaluation, I have the chance to use my scientific background to better understand the commercial landscape and to monitor competitors. What I hope is to keep on in this job and to learn as much as possible!

Moreover, we are going on writing our business plan through Mr Decitre class: it is very challenging, but the more you put in it, the more you will get from this exercise and I really hope to be able to capitalize on this work once come back to Italy!

Before saying goodbye, I’d like you to enjoy this wonderful picture taken by Micol last week end (thanks Micol for this wonderful reportage!). We were just outside San Francisco (Point Reyes), but the countryside was so quiet and beautiful that we felt like being miles away!!

The Lighthouse and the Ocean..... wonderful...

Among the Redwoods....
See you later,



Saturday, May 5, 2007

Hello folks,

Long time no write you…I am very sorry for it because this blog is going to be the diary of this amazing experience!!!

However, now we are in the middle of the second quarter and in the heart of the internship…and it lasts only 2 months before going back to Italy……….NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….what a terrible thing to say…

Let me explain why we are so sad…it is not because we don’t want to go back to Italy (actually, we miss it a lot!!!) but because these months here were so exciting…and challenging…and busy…and funny…and…so on….that we haven’t really realized that the time was passing very fast and this program is going to end!!!!

By the way, today I am going to talk you about the company where I am performing my internship.

FivePrime Therapeutics, Inc. is a pre-clinical stage biotech company discovering and developing innovative protein and antibody therapeutics. FivePrime is using its world-class discovery platform to build a strong pipeline that currently includes products in development for cancer and diabetes and multiple leads in metabolic and immunologic diseases, oncology and regenerative medicine.

FivePrime is located in Mission Bay in San Francisco…

................yyyeeessss…it is exactly what now you are thinking….I
commute everyday from San Jose’ to the city…

.............fortunately, Elisabetta works in South San Francisco so we do carpool together and it makes the commute a little bit less heavy and boring!!!

I work with the business development team to figure out the potential market for a new protein the company is developing.

It is very interesting and stimulating working with the BDU team..I have always worked in the Academia and, in particular, in the lab, so you can image how everything is completely new and challenging for me!!!! I am really honoured and happy to have the possibility to join such a successful and competitive company!!!

Now, let me talk you about a party where we went a couple of weeks ago….the Yuri’s Night Party at the NASA research center…

Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space on April 12th, 1961. The US Space Shuttle first launched on April 12th, 1981. Yuri's Night is like the St Patricks Day or Cinco de Mayo for space. It is one day when all the world can come together and celebrate the power and beauty of space and what it means for each of us.

The BEST!!!!!!!

It was a really funny and amazing party and it lasted until late!!!

Ok…that’s enough for today…write to you soon