Launching Global Media Startups

by Sheridan Tatsuno, Dreamscape Global, San Francisco, CA

How do you launch a successful global media company?  Where are the opportunities, challenges and pitfalls?

As a screenwriter and a Silicon Valley tech strategist and serial entrepreneur co-launching my 8th and 9th startups, I believe we’re at the cusp of a revolution in digital media and entertainment – Hollywood 2.0 – which will overturn existing industries as digital news and music have done in the past.

With the explosion of mobile media, crowdfunding and digital currencies, “blue ocean” opportunities are limitless around the world. Like Internet 1.0, entrepreneurs are likely to be the leaders in creating new business models and industries. But the mobile cloud boom will be much, much bigger.  There were only 100 million PC users when the Internet went commercial in 1994; now there are 6+ billion mobile users worldwide.


Where are these opportunities and how can you capitalize on them?  The fastest-growing media opportunities today lie in mobile video and gaming, community clouds, personalized e-commerce, and Asia. Mobile video is forecast to reach $2.5 billion in 2016, up sharply from $1 billion in 2013, with Asia becoming the largest market. (

Facebook and Pinterest are expanding their mobile video capabilities so look for ways to integrate mobile advertising with them, especially Pinterest, which is product-driven. Flash sales and auctions on Instagram, Snapchat and other mobile platforms are potential new markets.

The entertainment gaming market is saturated so some gamers are shifting to business, education, nonprofits, and government since these organizations need to attract and retain Millennials who prefer enjoyable ways to collaborate real time via mobile devices. Bunchball and Badgeville are leaders in gamifying marketing and sales. In Sweden, my friend developed a mobile game where hospital employees reduced energy costs by 30%.

Corporate training is ripe for reinvention since it is a $50 billion market that is broken and ineffective. My startup, TruNorth Global, is focused on this space. Within a few years, most companies will recruit, train, motivate and collaborate using a variety of real-time mobile training and Big Data tools and systems. The early applications will be sales and marketing, legal and financial compliance, financial trading, HR training, and other areas where competition, regulations and costs are critical factors.

Public education is being reinvented by Khan Academy, Coursera and other e-learning startups, but they still use traditional video lecture approaches. New startups are creating interactive training that involves challenges, contests, and other gaming approaches.

English language training is popular, but multilingual platforms will be key for selling to Asia, Europe and cities with diverse populations.

Cisco has found that community clouds among universities are becoming popular ways to reduce costs and share resources.


The era of “build it and they will come” is over. Today, discovery is the biggest challenge facing all gaming, video and fashion companies since app stores and the Internet are saturated with competitors. How does one build a strong fan base and community?

Creating compelling videos on YouTube and Tumblr to a loyal fan base has moved beyond periodic ads to news channels. Crowdfunding using social media is a way to test the viability of new products, but tends to favor hardware products and media celebrities. If you don’t have a celebrity, how do you attract attention and build traffic?

Today, you need to build an interactive and iterative process where you are constantly in touch with your customers and fans, from sample content and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), through crowdfunding, full production, marketing and distribution. Ask customers what they want and how they want it and offer contests and challenges.

For early startups, building on AWS, IBM, and other cloud services is cheaper and faster. There are dozens of CRM (customer relationship management) and social marketing services that you can use to engage and track your fan base. See these vendor sites for Use Cases on how their media customers are using their services and study their success stories. Many platforms offer startup services and incubators so shop around for the best deal.

Once you build a core audience, post your startup on and local angel groups. Look for accelerators in your area that can connect you with investors.

Silicon Valley investors and media giants are currently seeking to invest in and acquire media platforms with market traction, so think through your value proposition to them and your “exit strategy” since investors seek a return within 5 to 7 years.

In San Francisco, my partners have launched RFS 9 Hollywood 2.0, an informal group to invite developers who can build media startups, which can be pitched to our network of a few thousand Silicon Valley angel investors, so tell your developer friends:


Most media creators I meet are “starving artists” because they only focus on creative production and forget the business side. It’s called “showbiz” for a reason, so focus on finding a savvy business partner. George Lucas was able to build Star Wars into a sustainable global franchise because he mastered the business aspects of the film industry.

Here are some immediate steps to take:

  • Learn as much as possible about business (finance, accounting, marketing, sales, distribution, partnering, negotiations, etc.) through online sources, e-learning, books, classes, workshops, events, business clubs, and friends. Your business experience should be a lifelong process since markets are constantly changing.
  • Study and interview successful gamers and filmmakers to learn how they succeeded, especially in the critical first years. Post your learning and discuss them with your team, fans and partners to find ideas that are applicable to your business.
  • Establish your own media club on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and/or other social media services in order to build your community of partners, fans and volunteers and share games and videos online, not just promote your company site. Media is a collaborative effort so you need to build a loyal fan base like Star Wars or Minecraft by starting small and building over time.  In 2010, I launched Silicon Valley Global Network to connect entrepreneurs around the world; it now has 28,000 members and is growing organically. SVGN has opened many doors to new business ideas, partners, and opportunities. Building it has only taken a few minutes a day; it could be monetized as an entrepreneurship channel.
  • Find a seasoned business partner who can manage these issues full time, so you can spend most of your time creating. The best referrals will come from friends and people in media companies, business clubs, incubators, and alumni groups
  • Work with local business groups, chambers of commerce, universities, tech hubs to build a critical mass. In the mid-1980s, I volunteered with to introduce Silicon Valley chipmakers to Bangalore, which had the ambitious goal of becoming “the Silicon Valley of Software.” I thought it would take 20 years, but they shocked us all by taking off in 10 years. So aim high, start small, collaborate and work hard!

In Silicon Valley, we’ve learned that nobody can predict the future, so we focus on building software and hardware products, moving fast, learning from mistakes and failures, and constantly iterating. There’s no easy way to the top, but as former Apple and Disney designer Alan Kay said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So invent your own future with your business partners and fans! Then you’ll have something valuable to share with the world.


Silicon Valley Global Network:

2013 Outlook: 7 Big Trends Affecting Entrepreneurs

As we approach 2013, I would like to share my thoughts on big trends that will affect entrepreneurs and innovators:

1.  The U.S. “Fiscal Cliff” will lead to ongoing uncertainty, restraining corporate investments and consumer spending through 2013 and possibly into 2014.  Not a great time to start or build a company?  Wrong.  The best startups are capital efficient and leverage either ignored or fast-growing markets.  What are some of these?

2.  Global Mobile Cloud Boom.  IBM, HP, Amazon, Dell and others are promoting cloud services —- private, public and hybrid clouds — which are booming right now.  Now it’s possible for sole entrepreneurs and small businesses to get free CRM and other useful mobile apps (see and cheap cloud services, which enable startups to go global out of the starting gate.  The next Amazons, Groupons and Facebooks will be built on public clouds, then expand to hybrid clouds.  The market is global so expect fast growth in the underserved BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) markets.

3.  Grassroots Services and Content Creation:   Smartphones and tablets democratize technology so it’s possible for poor farmers in India and China to create and post their own content.  Watch for a boom in grassroots services from “the bottom of the pyramid.”  The next great fortunes will be made in Africa, the Mideast and Asia, which have young, fast-growing populations.  A must read:  The Takeover of Mobile Internet [Infographic] from ChurchMag  and the first African-designed smartphone and tablet: 

4.  Mobile Learning:   Mobile devices make it possible to learn anywhere, anytime, especially with the rise of Khan Academy and thousands of other PC and mobile learning startups and universities like MIT and Harvard offering free and credential courses.  A must read:  The End of the University as We Know It – Nathan Harden – The American Interest Magazine

5.  Marketing Revolution:   The shift to grassroot mobile devices means the former product-push marketing and sales approaches won’t work.  Instead, listening and collaborating with customers who are treated as friends and guests will become the new paradigm.  Market demand and “user buzz”, not marketing hype, will take over and undermine companies stuck in past methods.  A must read: Entrepreneurs Learn New Rules for Real Influence via @bloggerplugins

6.  Crowdfunding is the future for entrepreneurs.  Existing financial institutions are too slow, rigid, closed and conservative to keep up with the fast-moving pace of grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship, so we’re seeing a boom in crowdfunding and other forms of micro-financing.  A useful crowdfunding news site is Crowdfund Insider.

7.  Lean innovation is the future.  Due to ongoing recession, budget cutbacks, and high unemployment, entrepreneurs must think and act “lean” and not waste time or money.  They must reinvent business processes since we have totally new tools, markets and systems.  Reinvention or reset is the new buzzword.  Here’s a good article on lean innovation:

A young Chinese man is circling the global in search of the next Silicon Valleys.  His report on China is excellent. Offer to meet him and tell him about your region. | VentureBeat via @VentureBeat

I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that you share your energy, goodwill and knowledge with others to build a better world for all of us.  Peace!

TruNorth Global Cuts Your IT Costs

Mobile apps that cut your IT costs by 40%.

Since summer, I’ve been on the core team of TruNorth Global, an “accidental” startup founded after I had coffee with a colleague in Silicon Valley.  He introduced me to his sales trainer who introduced me to Kurt Steele, a former SAP manager who built Endymion Systems to $180 million, who became CEO of our new startup.  We chose TruNorth to symbolize our emphasis on business integrity, which is so lacking in the world today.

TruNorth Global enables small businesses to cut their IT costs by 40% by migrating to the HP Public Cloud using mobile apps by our business partner,  We also provide sales training videos to help businesses jumpstart their sales in this slow economy.

Check out the free CRM at   If you want to save costs and boost your sales, contact me at sheridan at  Saving money is a perfect Christmas gift to your company.  You can give bonuses to your employees from the savings.

Advising Russian Business Parks and Resorts

Recently, I accepted an offer to serve on the International Advisory Board to Russez, a state-run management agency that was established to recruit foreign companies and investors to Russia’s business parks and resorts.  See their site for park locations:

To provide updates on Russian business trends, I’ve launched a page on Facebook.

Feel free to join and invite your friends.

Ekaterina Bragina and Deputy CEO Vadim Dubovik is a state-run management agency responsible for recruiting foreign companies and resorts to Russian business parks and resorts.

My colleagues in Moscow:  Vadim Dubovik (right), Deputy CEO and former Deloitte manager, and Ekaterina Bragina, pharmaceutical industry manager.

SF Giants: The Misfit Mystique

SF Giants: 2010 World Series Champs!

San Francisco has always been an oddball in the country, the outcast, the misfit, the wild Baghdad by the Bay.  Now our beloved SF Giants are playing in the World Series again and we watch with total amazement at our bearded pitchers, long-hair hippie pitchers, and giant Panda slugger hit three homeruns in a single game, and pinch ourselves wondering how it all happened.

It’s no mistake. San Francisco is the petri dish for Northern California. It attracts the dropouts, hippies, gays and lesbians, artists and fashionistas, tech heads, empty-nesters and immigrants seeking to reinvent themselves and start all over.  The Bay Area attracts and produces so much talent because it’s a free, open society where we welcome cultural, environmental and technological innovators.  We’re willing to take chances, discard old habits, and try to create new things from scratch.  Free lifestyles, world-class performances and results, not old-fashioned credentials, family pedigree and corporate track records, are what really matter. Granted, we have our conservatives, but many Bay Area folks live Steve Jobs’ advice:  ”Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”  And foolish we have remained.  Instead of asking why, we ask why not, like children who don’t recognize limits. Why not grow organic food, ride bikes, accept transgenders, go to Burning Man?  It sure beats growing up dull, bored and frustrated.

Having grown up in the Bay Area, it never dawned on me that this joie de vivre and personal freedom was unique in the world until I traveled elsewhere.  My college buddy’s friend from Philadelphia distilled the Bay Area vibe best during the last World Series season:

“You guys are weird. San Francisco is different, really different from other American cities.  The Giants are a bunch of misfits, dropouts, and castoffs, but they intrigued me because they’re like grown-up kids having fun playing sandlot baseball, totally unlike Philly and other teams which always look so serious, like they’re wearing corporate suits.  We used to laugh at you, but the Giants taught us one thing:  You can have fun, look weird, and still be great.”

Maybe that should be our logo:  Be weird!  Be great!

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

After living in Silicon Valley for nearly three months, I’ve decided to move back to San Francisco for several reasons:

The City of SF is buzzing like a beehive right now with a variety of startups, major events and cultural life.  By contrast, downtown San Jose is rather quiet and sleepy, with few people and startups.  San Jose has a nicely redesigned downtown, but it forgot to lure back people, the main point of cities.

San Francisco has beautiful nature, scenery and a variety of architecture, plus it’s perfect for walking and hiking.  The City consists of micro-climates and neighborhoods that change dramatically within a few blocks.  By contrast, San Jose is the ultimate suburb of commuters; it’s hard to find pedestrians and cyclists outside of downtown.

San Jose is great if you’re married and commute to a job, but the city is split between a Latino Eastside and a white/Asian West Valley.  San Francisco is better if you’re single and like startups, nature, ethnic diversity and cultural activities.

In short, they’re very, very different lifestyles and environments!  Perhaps I would settle in San Jose if I were married, but until then the City is where I left my heart.  I’ll visit the valley often since I’m co-launching with valley partners, riding the SF-San Jose express on Caltrain.

Looking toward downtown San Francisco

Creating Jobs for Youth

At’s recent DreamForce conference in San Francisco, General Colin Powell and GE CEO Jeff Emmelt emphasized the need for entrepreneurs to create new jobs, especially for youth to avoid creating a larger “lost generation.” How can young people, already faced with no jobs, create new jobs?   As a serial entrepreneur, here are some suggestions:

- Look around and find a pressing problem, headache or need that needs to be fixed and brainstorm ideas with friends, family and affected people on the best way to solve the problems.  Many students can’t afford skyrocketing college tuition and living away from home so they’re deferring college, going to local colleges and studying part-time and online.  What new businesses are emerging around these behaviors?

- Look for emerging opportunities that arise from political events, legislation, market shifts, major events, changing tastes, etc.  For example, many youth are car-sharing, walking, and cycling since they can’t afford cars, prefer to live in cities, and want to be eco-friendly.    How is this changing their shopping and eating habits?  Are we becoming a cafe society of social media and e-commerce entrepreneurs?

-  Find a cause that arouses your passion, a wrong that must be ended, a neglected group that must be helped, a problem facing poor families, something significant worth doing and organize solutions.  You may not make money at first, but you’ll feel better about yourself and help society.  A great example is urban gardening to teach youth work skills and responsibility and provide vegetables and fruit to under-served poor neighborhoods.

There’s no shortage of problems and human needs so look around, study, ask questions and develop something useful with others and you’ll succeed in the sense of improving society.  Micro-lending began that way so look for other small ways that you can make a big impact.

And have fun while you’re doing it!



SVGN members are leaders in this challenge so I encourage all of you to learn from each other and collaborate to help and build companies. That will be your biggest contribution to society.

PARC Research on Inflatable Robots

The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in Palo Alto, California has historically invented a wide variety of cool technologies, including the PC, mouse, laser printing, Ethernet, and graphical user interface (GUI).

Saul Griffith is developing inflatable robots with DARPA, which are light and easily

Palo Alto Research Center

Inflatable robots could revolutionize many industries.

manipulated. His 20 lb. inflatable elephant can carry up to 1,000 pounds.  This arm can lift and manipulate objects like a conventional steel robot, which opens the door to new types of low-cost, easily-transported robots.  The Pentagon’s DARPA (Defense Area Research Project Agency) is funding his research, but there are many potential non-military applications in manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and retailing.

Inflatables are cheap to make and could reinvent the way robots and machinery are built. Currently, the demo inflatables are disposable, but recycled materials could be used. Imagine, recycled inflatable machines.

For more information, see:;

My E-book on Barnes and Noble

I’m pleased to announce that my e-book, “In the Valley of Digital Dreams,” is now available from the Barnes and Noble website:

I welcome any comments and suggestions on how I can elaborate on life and work in Silicon Valley based on my decades of experience working in the high-tech sector.

My Move to Silicon Valley

Last week, I made a counterintuitive move to San Jose from San Francisco, where social media startups are booming.  Why downtown San Jose, which is slow compared to Palo Alto and SF?   For one, the Irish Innovation Center ( is backed by a powerful group of Irish American tech folks, led by former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, so startups get a lot of attention compared to other incubators.

Besides being contrarian, “aiming ahead of the puck” is another reason.  Office vacancy in Palo Alto and Mountain View are virtually zero so startups need to move southward toward Santa Clara and San Jose.  Many are moving along the Caltrain line since many young college grads are commuting by train and walking or biking to avoid traffic jams and be eco-friendly.  In SF, startups are moving eastward along BART to Oakland, Hayward and Dublin.

How will this affect Silicon Valley?  The valley is basically encompassing the entire SF Bay Area with its digital footprint.  People no longer have to commute to the Palo Alto-to-Santa Clara corridor to work, but can find fast-growing startups popping up in their cities.  Most are unknown and non-tech hiring is done informally so one needs to be networked.

Is the move worth it?  I’m advising a sales training group that closed a $500K contract within two days so it’s already paying off.  We’re launching a mobile startup soon, which promises to revolutionize the way corporate sales training is done.

Keep tuned!