Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Web 2.0, Podcasting and all the hype- it's effect on fundraising and startups

So, interesting experience in progress. My company is in the process of raising our first round of venture capital (clickcaster.com). I presented at the Dow Jones VentureWire conference last week (a collection of investors and startup company CEOs like myself, at various stages of development).

Two 20 minutes presentations to a roomful of (skeptical) VC's. A bit nerve wracking, but overall not bad. The format was good; you talk for 20 minutes, do a demo and then they have 20 minutes of 'free time' until the next presentation set. You get to network with anyone who's interested in your company for that time and then wham.. you're up for another presentation.

Since this was my first one of these 'pitch and greet' things, I have no idea if the response was good or not by normal standards, but I did get alot of business cards handed to me and alot of VC's telling me they'd like to talk more.

Interestingly, they're true to their word. This week, I've got about 10 phone meetings set up with various VC's from around the world. From Japan to Boston (and, of course, Silicon Valley).

The only thing that worries me a bit is the hype level around what we're doing: Podcasting.

It's technically fairly simple. MP3 audio files wrapped in RSS. In simple terms, it turns your audio recording (show) into something that's automatically delivered to anyone’s computer and MP3 player who subscribes to it.

An MP3 audio file is to a podcast what a newspaper or magazine at a news stand is to the same newspaper or magazine that you get via subscription (i.e. delivered to your house vs. having to go out, find it and buy it).

Simple eh? Well, with over a billion (with a b) MP3 players and MP3 capable phones being sold in the next 36 months, turns out, it's going to be really big.
And, it's at the center of the 'user generated content' hype you hear now (blogs fall into this arena as well).

And, to top it off, what we're doing is built on top of AJAX and OpenSource software (at the heart of the 'Web 2.0 craze).

So, it all adds up to, maybe, a bit of overhype. Being right in the middle of ALL three of these super hot areas, I think, makes some of the VC's nervous.

Had a conversation with one VC who I met earlier this year who loves RSS stuff, has invested in it and understands it. But, he's passing on investing in us. His reasons were valid, but I can't help but think that he's a little gunshy of the overhyped arena we're operating in right now (he's a survivor of the 2000 tech bubble burst).

And I have to say I tend to agree with the overhyped aspect of it all. I understand it (with a billion podcast playing capable devices out there, and the ability to put audio content into them that you pick, on subjects you like that can be listened to when you want them, there's a massive market.. and radio, with $28 billion in advertising revenue a year, is a prime target for guys like us) but, you can raise expectations too high, even with those kind of opportunities.

It's sad in a way. This is the VC I really wanted to be our partner. He's smart, he gets it, he knows what he's doing and I really like him. He did say he'd be happy to introduce us several other VC's who will invest (and he'd be happy to tell them why he isn't, mostly because he's already maxed out on investments this year and his fund closes end of this year.. too soon to make a call on us, and do proper due diligence, all very valid).

I have no doubt we'll get funded. There's simply too much money available for opportunities like ours to get passed up on. I worry though that the really good, experienced and knowledge VCs are going to stay out of this area because of the hype level looking, feeling and smelling alot like the bubble of 99.

For the record: It's not a bubble. This is real stuff we're doing. Web 2.0 is real. Podcasting is real. Technologies like AJAX that make your website act like an application are real. I'm hoping the really good VC's don't get too spooked by the hype. We need them and their experience, knowledge and wisdom.

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