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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

A Touch of Brilliance (My Favorite Apps – Part 2)

May 29, 2013 by Yuval Brisker


Of course, the smartphone has changed all of our lives. That’s a given. Within the coming years there are going to be very few people on this planet who won’t be touched by this revolution.

But currently, I think it’s safe to say that the most intense beneficiaries of the mobile and smartphone revolutions are people living in an urban setting in the affluent world. The quantity of information and opportunity for connecting, for making the mundane daily things much easier is almost infinite – and the apps addressing these opportunities are almost impossible to quantify. Every time I look around, there’s a new app for something that has the potential to really redefine how that something is found, completed, tracked, etc.

For anyone who has lived in a big, dense urban center like New York, San Francisco, London, Paris or Tokyo, we know that one of the great blessings, privileges AND annoyances of the urban existence is public transportation in all of its forms. Subways and buses are amazing transportation networks – but you have no control over their movement or their schedule, and so your relationship with them is defined by your showing up, catching or missing them. So other than seeing schedules and knowing more easily and accurately when the train or bus will arrive, there is not much more you can do.

Taxis on the other hand are totally different…a lovely creation of convenience that is really only “semi”-public transportation but one that simplifies the lives of many. Taxis are great. But could they get better?

The answer is yes.

Über is the ultimate manifestation of an app that takes full advantage of the  revolutionary qualities of the combined mobile smartphone platform and the mobile Internet – particularly three:

  • Always on communications capabilities
  • Location-based services
  • Constant connectivity that matches and processes transactional info (such as connecting things and procesding payments)

Über connects people who need a taxi of any kind with member drivers.  By knowing where both are and giving drivers the ability to be available and accessible – anyone can find a quality car from the comfort of their sofa or their restaurant chair without having to go out and hail a cab in the driving rain, freezing snow, wind or burning sun. And you won’t ever have to fight over a cab with someone on the street.

You can choose from a variety of cars at your price level, know the name of the driver, the make and license plate of the car and the driver’s cell phone number (anyone ever lose anything in a taxi and had no way of finding the driver?) and order a pickup wherever you want by just dropping a pin on  map and pressing “order.” It’s ingenious and it works.

Not only can anyone be a driver (ever need an extra little bit of cash?) and work their own hours in their own car, which creates a new twist on the old transportation workforce model, but it also builds another type of functional social network – you can rate the driver, know his rating AND he or she can rate you, so drivers are safe from abusive passengers. All of this is the ultimate transportation upgrade for the urban dweller – both for the transporter and traveler.

Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, one of the most important things…NO monies are exchanged in the car – at all! It’s all credit card enabled and there is no tipping (that’s calculated into a slightly higher fare). So at the end of a trip, when you get to your destination, you just get out of the car and say thank you and goodbye. All the unpleasantness is gone and all that is left is pure convenience – and a very civilized experience.

Truly amazing.

A few weeks back, I was having lunch with a friend in Manhattan and he brought along his nine year old son. As the meal was ending, I ordered an Über via my iPhone app.

I saw the driver that Über chose for me on the app’s map, and as he made his way towards me, I could track his progress. Über also gives you an ETA AND sends you a text message when the driver is one minute away.  (Did I say it takes FULL advantage of the mobile smartphone?!).

When I saw the Cadillac SUV pulling up, we got up from the table and walked out to the car. As the driver was opening the door for me to slip in – my friend’s son asked me with amazement – “Do you have a private car and driver?”

“Yes,” I said. “I do!”

Über. My second favorite app.

Into the Light

February 10, 2013 by Yuval Brisker


One of the great things about being CEO of  TOA Technologies - an innovator, a fast mover, an up and comer of the first order, a rainbow of amazing, ambitious and creative people, customers and partners – is that you get to experience the great satisfaction, the pride and excitement that infects everyone who works for and is associated with the company when something significantly excellent happens.

One such milestone happened this week with Forbes’ recognizing TOA Technologies as one of America’s 100 Most Promising Companies.  I can honestly say that I saw people standing a little taller, walking with an extra kick in their step, savoring the moment of accomplishment, of recognition, of being a part of a fantastic adventure. This is the fun part of every CEO’s job. I’m glad I get to experience it.

And recognition from the unbiased is more fulfilling, and this has undoubtedly been a great year of unbiased recognition for TOA: A few months ago Gartner named TOA a Leader in our software area; Montclair Advisors named us one of the top SaaS companies and much more.  This particular recognition has a bit of a different flavor as it takes us back to the roots of the venture, to the original idea of solving a mass consumer problem in our case – the problem of customers waiting without knowing when a service or delivery person would arrive at their home – waiting sometime for hours, sometimes for days, frustrated and unhappy. But the beauty of our journey has been that our team has gone about solving the problem in a totally new and unexpected way – a way that’s led us to develop a complete, end-to-end field service management solution for managing and empowering mobile employees, all in the cloud, and as a result, becoming a force in the new guard of enterprise software.

I think that one of the reasons that TOA was recognized by Forbes is that the basic idea of TOA, the basic problem we solve is just so easy to grasp – easier than  most other enterprise software companies’ core missions. The idea that sparked TOA and the imagination of clients, investors and fans alike is a solution to the common annoyance of an everyday problem - after all, who hasn’t waited – pissed off – for something to be delivered or installed in their home? Everyone has, and so the end-user benefit is clear.  So when recognition comes from a respected, popular business magazine like Forbes – in effect the defacto semi-official chronicler of ‘top lists’ in the world – it feels like we’ve come full circle, and the potential of the growth and emerging dominance of TOA to the worldwide consumer base  ’waiting at home’  is now unequivocally clear.

Innovation, Audacity and No Fear. Google Apps is the new Office.

December 27, 2012 by Yuval Brisker


Great article in the NYTimes yesterday about Google’s expansion into Microsoft’s last bastion of domination  - the Office productivity suite for enterprise customers!

Since TOA has been using Google Apps from the day it was available to businesses (we are a Charter User, I believe)  this is no real news for us or for any of our employees worldwide. We love Google Apps (Docs, Plus, etc)  and can clearly see a future where we will not need to buy a copy of Microsoft Office for every employee and save not only a lot of money but a lot of hassle on many levels (storage, security, records, etc).

Google Apps and Docs are not just ‘Good Enough’ at this point – they are indeed great. It only takes using them for a few days to figure out why. Google is constantly, continuously and obsessively innovating…with no fear..Even if GDocs seems to ‘look like’ Word or Excel or Powerpoint… they are not…their power is in the little improvements and small but substantial thought that Google’s brilliant developers have put into everything…with the goal of making the user experience simple, easy, connected.

And yes…it’s that connection, the ability to easily and seamlessly collaborate with others, without needing help or user manual , that is the true Killer here…And collaboration here is not some pretty industry buzz word that no one understands or know how to use…At TOA we use Google Docs primarily for sharing documents and collaborating and we encourage it – from the CEO on down as the de facto standard. We’ve collaborated with 5 people on an spreadsheet at one time with people in 5 different parts of the world and 5 different time zones; I’ve written whole documents with two or more people looking and working on shaping text together simultaneously (I’ve even done that on a Delta flight at 30,000 feet working on a presentation with one of my marketing directors, who was sitting 5 rows behind me, we were both connected to airborne wifi, both on the same Google Doc, working together, being highly productive.. talk about Mile High Club…); I regularly collaborate with my executive team to speed the creation and completion of documents, etc. And now we use Google Plus Hangouts to do big video conference calls incorporating Google Docs and Videos and Screen sharing…you name it. And with the greatest of ease…

If I sound like I’m a paid spokesman – don’t worry – I’m not…I just love audacity in innovation and a company that has a vision, steadfastness and no fear. No fear of failure. It’s a hallmark of Google’s approach to trying new things. Google Apps, Plus and Docs are getting better by the day, by the hour and I and my colleagues marvel at the constant and positive change: For me looking at Google Plus and Google Apps and Docs is like watching a time-lapse motion picture of a beautiful  plant growing…you can literally see the evolution with your own eyes, as you work, with new great features popping up every single day…It’s truly awe inspiring.

Microsoft on the other hand just can’t seem to regain the supremacy that it once had…despite some of the nice things they are trying desperately to role out with Windows 8 and Windows Phone, they are late to the party and the consumers are not really biting…at this pace, ten years from now, if there is no brilliant unexpected big move…Microsoft could well be a shadow of its former self – while Google does not rest and continues to rise…innovating like crazy, ambitious like there is no tomorrow, vibrant and alive….I embrace that strong innovative spirit and phenomenal execution!

Is a Flip in Tech Desire Afoot?

November 12, 2012 by Yuval Brisker


Two articles caught my eye over the weekend.

One speculates on Apple’s peak , and the other contemplates Microsoft’s potential resurgence with Windows 8 and Surface.

Apple ‘peaking’ is now a subject of grand speculation which almost borders on anticipation. This article lays out the rationale. It’s a pretty clear analysis that can be summed up with this quote:

“It’s baffling. Apple has a winning formula – perhaps the most successful business formula ever – yet it seems intent on changing it. The company has shifted away from Jobs’s laser-like focus on building the best and most complete user experience, and started putting its interests way ahead of those of its users.”

Of course, the Apple Maps debacle is at the center of the speculation that the company’s greatest days are behind it. The writer cites interesting clues: the quick release of the 4th Gen iPad  on the heels of iPad 3 (the ‘new’ iPad) with no clear justification, the lack of innovation in the iPhone 5, the iPad mini (which Steve Jobs said he would never release), etc.

All of facts point to Apple’s desire to exploit the hype around its products to the absolute maximum – with no real regard for the customer. The assumption here is that that Apple want to grab as much revenue as they can before the world discovers that they have nothing left to offer.

The loss of  Steve Jobs was  clearly a momentous event. He was a founder and leader of such mythic status who had such immense creative talents and management abilities, a man who not only founded the company but engineered its rebirth, resurgence and dominance, and leaving the company at such an important time cannot be underestimated (and it wasn’t, of course). But it’s interesting that after all the endless stories about Jobs’ dominant presence in the creation and management of new Apple products, people are still surprised that the company could potentially be going through an innovation crisis now that he has permanently and forever exited the scene.

We need to look no further than Microsoft where Bill Gates stepped down as CEO over 12 years ago to see how long it has taken the company to find its footing. By many accounts, Microsoft seems to be moving in the right direction with Windows 8, reflected by excellent reviews and growing developer interest. With the kind of cash that Microsoft has and the continued ambition, you really can’t count them out. And, it doesn’t hurt that Steve Ballmer has a very strong link to and with the founder.

Yes, Apple is going through a profound re-alignment, digesting the magnitude of a founder’s death, adjusting to its relatively new status as the most valuable company on the planet (despite the unbelievable $200B loss in value over the past few months) and looking for its next line of innovation. But with the kind of hordes of cash they have on hand and continued ambition they harbor, I would say that the speculation of their death is premature.

But between these two debates, what is clear is that Microsoft may be on the verge of a rebirth itself, and the “timely” reduction in Apple’s cache may mean a major re-shifting of tech desire.