McNealy challenges tech innovations and privacy!
Computerworld Hong Kong (CWHK): Tell us about Wayin and why you are interested in social media?
Scott McNealy (SC): Wayin is keeping me busy as chairman. We are a cloud company and target the social media world. What we do is capture the major social media conversations from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. It listens to all the noises from the crowd and focuses on [specific] topics and keywords, then re-displays them in real time on your own website or in venue displays, like at a stadium or shopping mall.
We are doing this with shopping mall K11 in Hong Kong to display or store social media conversations. Then we analyse these conversations and figure out who is saying what and what are the new trends. We are taking advantage of the social media conversations to build a brand, an organisation or an event.
Promotional and advertising campaigns are considered far more creditable, if they are supported by social media. Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten did a test and found that products that are supported by social media sold way better than those that were not. Social media has more than arrived.
CWHK: How important is social media for businesses?
SC: Organisations will have to step up [in social media], otherwise they will fall behind.
In capitalism, if you are making 1% more, compound that over 10 years, it’s a big profit. But if you are making 1% less, then in 10 years you are out of business. The margins could be very small, but organisations that are not looking for every little edge are going to struggle.
User generated content is advertising, if you can figure out how to channel it, curate it and present it. That is what Wayin is trying to do—take credible user generated endorsement and conversations [then present them] around a product. The beauty of that is you don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to hire some purple spiked hair creative type to create new content and a tag line.
CWHK: Do you think the market needs more education about privacy with the rising of social media?
SC: No. The market is already adopting social media like crazy. There are now 5.2 billion social media accounts worldwide and only 7 billion people.
Are the consumers worried? Apparently not, because they have gone from zero to 5.2 billion. Are the benefits worth it? Let me take your phone away from you for 2 weeks. Would that make your life better?
You can say they are worried, but not to the point of action. I can’t find anyone who is worried to the point of being off the grid. Anything you do and goes out over the Internet is now a digital tattoo. Pretty soon the walls will have eyes and ears. It is not going to get better.
The only people who are off the grid are tragically poor, they live in abject poverty. The quickest way to get them the social economic ladder is to get them on the grid.
CWHK: How has social media and the changing user habit impacted the role of the CIOs and enterprises’ IT spending?
SC: I was just talking to some CIOs and the message I gave them is: CIOs need to understand that the CEOs are cutting your budget and growing the CMO’s budget. So you should hook up with the CMOs and see how you can help them
Businesses are shifting to a new set of issues. Compliance was a very big reason for technologies to move into the CFO space—accounting compliance and regulatory compliance. Now everyone is saying—we have lowered costs, we are compliant, now we have to drive revenue.
The CEOs now focus more on driving revenue. No one can cut costs to be successful and you can’t comply your way into success; you have to grow revenue to succeed.
CWHK: Is it harder to be a successful tech entrepreneur these days with technology being more available?
SC: I think it is harder because there are fewer geographic cultural and language barriers. You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley and you don’t need a lot of capital. Brands are also created more quickly. But who knows why or how things go viral. There is no science to it. It just sort of happens when all the right things take place magically or accidentally at the same time.
There was probably an Uber before, but it didn’t happen because it wasn’t right yet. Mark Zuckerburg was nowhere near an innovator as Andy Bechtolsheim (co-founder of Sun Microsystem) or the early Intel guys. Twitter, despite all its success, has no real innovation. Alibaba and all the rest of it are not huge innovations. But when everyone is connected, we are going to have to find some new ways to add innovations.
In the business environment where it is tipping and viral based, yes (tech venture is a hit-or-miss game), but when there is real science, invention and engineering, then no. There is still a lot of innovation going on, attempts at security, authentication, virtual currencies and a whole bunch of things.
So in the old days, PC was a tipping thing. That was an accidental empire. I think Gates would have a hard time re-creating that success at Microsoft. Steve Jobs was very talented, he created new multiple business models, made things work. He was the Christian Dior of consumer technology.
CWHK: Do you think innovation has shifted from actual development towards innovative ways of using technologies?
SC: It has not shifted but expanded. There is still an enormous amount of R&D put into microprocessors. It is just back in the old days, IT was all about processors. Now it has become a smaller percentage of the IT market. The whole IT pie is so big.
But there are people still inventing flash drives, better storage, microprocessors. That is still going on just that we are not focused on it because it does not make that much money anymore.
If you are doing infrastructure software you better be affiliated with one of the big players. You better have good new ideas to take advantage of the new hardware and provide new workloads that are demanded. That is real engineering, real work. But you better hook up with one of the major firms, because you are probably not going to create a major firm by just having better infrastructure.
CWHK: What’s your advice to young people considering a career in technology/ tech entrepreneurs?
SC: In the application space, there are big opportunities for entrepreneurs.
My son’s in Stanford and I told him to do a big data science degree. He said Dad there is no such thing, but when I was in college there was no such thing as computer science degree either. So we crafted a little big data science degree virtual curriculum at Stanford.
I encourage bright people to find things that can really do good to the world. If you have ever used Uber, they have really done a great thing. I just think it is a good app. Entrepreneurs should figure out how to skew dumb ways we do things and make it better.
Imagine Uber plus the Google driverless car. What is the impact? Certainly impacts the taxi companies, but it also impacts the delivery companies like Fed EX, postal service. All of a sudden instead of Uber hiring fifty thousand drivers a month, they are firing fifty thousand drivers because of the driverless cars. The disruptions we are going to see is huge.
By the way, Uber is not a new technology. They are just using GPS, applying something that someone else invented, and boom they changed it! Google is writing new software for driverless cars, that is pretty interesting innovation—it is scary and good. Imagine how drunk and high everybody will get now that you don’t have to stay sober to drive? Think about that implication.
There are dumb things you can do and there are really valuable things you can do. Smart entrepreneurs will fix the really dumb ways their parents did things, and improve everyone’s quality of life.