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Friday, December 22, 2006
Boulder Smartness, education or attitude?
Is Boulder, CO. really America's smartest city? David Cohen in his Coloradostartups blog tidbits section pointed me to the Forbes magazine article on this.
The article, dated December 15th, 2006, in Forbes, titled Amercia's Smartest Cities is here.
They seem to be using two criteria: Percentage of population with Bachelor, Masters and PhD degrees, and 'degree of stickiness' (keeping people in town after they graduate).
I have to wonder if this is a valid criteria. At the same time, I have to admit, Boulder IS a great place (considering it's actual population of a few hundred thousand people) for finding really talented people (or attracting them).
This focus on education level, though, bothers me. Education is a great thing, but at the same time it's also limiting in that it can create a sort of fence around what you're willing to accept as the right way to think about (and effectively, how to do) something. It can limit you. I've known more than my fair share of MBA's from very big named schools that KNEW the only way to size up a market and allocate R&D money, for instance, because they learned it in school and by god, that was how it was done. Period.
I'm not against education, if anything, Colorado needs more and better systems around education, but equating 'smart' with 'education' isn't, really, 100% accurate. Some of the smartest people I know didn't finish college. Hell, the guy who designed the hardware motherboard for the first Macintosh was a high school dropout.
But, the other allures of Boulder remain. Beautiful surroundings, ton's of things to do, healthy lifestyle, interesting people, an open atmosphere for new and offbeat ideas and yes, a high degree of 'smartness' in the air. I like to think education is just one part of that equation though, and, likely, not the biggest part.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Web 2.0 and VC's= maybe a good thing afterall.
Fred Wilson of Flatiron Partners in NYC has an excellent blog post up on how, and why, Web 2.0 and VC's mix very nicely, thank you. He sums it up with the following graph:
His premise is simple. The cost, in the early years, of a startup has dropped significantly. As the business takes off, all the usual business expenses (hardware, bandwidth, sales force, etc.) still pop up. So, the costs rise and need for capital required from VC's kicks in.
The upside is much of the risk is removed for VC's in the early stages (due to the low costs) and, assuming your company survives and grows, more of the equity remains in the hands of the founders (because much of the risk was removed along the way, requiring less equity be given up).
Nice trade off all around.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
4 hours of snow in Boulder
Friday, November 17, 2006
The Second Board Meeting
So, our second board meeting for ClickCaster was yesterday. We had everyone in attendance: Myself and two of my folks (Pete and Marsha) and our directors, Brad, Niel, Jerry by phone, and a guest (David, one of our investors) who's likely to join the board shortly.
We went over some of the mechanics (approving the minutes from the last meeting with some input on how they should be short and highlight via bullet points what was discussed, how to best report finances consistently, etc.) and then went over the current state of the business.
This was an excellent discussion. We went over our activities over the last month such as development, new product capabilities, growth, status of existing customers and contracts, and results of interviews with potential customers but we spent the bulk of our time talking about where the business should go.
We looked at competition and determined we were well positioned. We looked at and discussed other companies our board members were familiar with that had similar business models but were farther down the road in the market and we were able to draw excellent conclusions on what directions we should be taking with our product development, market focus and definition of what the business really was all about.
One thing that really stood out and isn't always obvious to a Web 2.0 type company is an obvious one: Are you a consumer business serving end users or do you sell the platforms and tools necessary to enable others who already have relationships with targeted customer bases? And who's, really, driving your development? The 'perceived' end users customers or the businesses who will actually buy your product and use it to reach their customers?
Are you building your feature set based on what your developers (and their friends) think are cool or on what paying customers are willing to pay for? I know, obvious right? Product management 101 stuff, but it's easy to let those 'cool' things take precedent over the less cool things you can actually sell. Often they overlap, but not always. It's something every resource constrained early stage company needs to watch carefully, and manage even more carefully.
This is a question that I think more and more of the current crop of internet startups will be facing. With the recent pull back from the market (and taking 'parts' out for other future businesses) that Odeo (a company similar to ours in some respects) recently announced, it's pretty clear that not all consumer focused businesses are standing on solid ground.
The first board meeting was great for setup of what's to come and this, the second board meeting, showed us how bringing the full intellectual, market knowledge and general experience of a group of seasoned investors and fellow entrepreneurs has immense value to a young startup.
Most of what was discussed are things we would very likely have gotten to without the boards help and direction, in about 3 months (if we were lucky) and more likely 6 months or more. And in our world, 6 months is, literally, a lifetime.
What's becoming obvious is that by having a highly engaged board that's looking hard at your business, meeting monthly and communicating alot in between meetings is that you have a focusing effect that's exceptionally difficult to get without a group like this helping you to clearly think through the issues.
Often it's simply easier to 'let that problem go' for another month or two with the belief that it'll work itself out. What we did was identify where the weaknesses are and come up with a clear plan on how to address them and shore up the problems, do it with some real discipline and focus, and get ahead of the market, just enough-not too much, to become a major player.
I suspect many boards are more like 'reporting' exercises where the companies execs run through status and what they're planning. There's alot of nodding, a few questions and everyone goes out for lunch.
Not so with our board. We did have lunch (during the board meeting) but what we came out with was a much better view of things like: what our real business is, where we sit in the market, who we need to focus our sales and marketing efforts on and how to get there, much more quickly, than we could have done without the direct input and hands on involvement of a fully engaged board of directors.
We have work to do, and some of it will be difficult and less than fun, but most of it's exciting stuff that moves us to where we need to be. Fast, and with multiple big brains guiding the ship. I'm loving it, and find myself already looking forward to the next board meeting.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Oh baby, I love it. The big mondo media world is finding size, in fact, does not matter.
From today's Wall Street Journal:
The first round of bids for Tribune Co. have come in low, prompting the newspaper and TV company to notify bidders that it is now prepared to consider offers for parts of the business, say people familiar with the situation.The brief story then talks about how 'wealthy individuals' like David Geffen are interested in buying parts of the Tribune Company like The Los Angeles Times.
We're seeing this in radio land as well. Rumors are afoot that Clear Channel, with flat profits and no more room to grow, is looking at selling off stations.
Could it be the value of these assets is dropping as they get farther and farther behind how real people are using media? Smearing ink on ground up tree's and sending out energy on a tiny slice of electromagnetic spectrum were once cutting edge technology for media distribution. No more. Geffen is in his 60's. He's interested because he has an ego and 'owning a newspaper' is one of those ego gratifying trophies that an older generation still think of as valuable.
I, personally, read newspapers (from all over the country) daily. But not a single one is printed on paper. I dont' think I've read a physical world newspaper in several years. And I spend alot more time reading blogs that, often, reference a newspaper story. This gives me context (I trust the bloggers perspective which gives me confidence that reading the story is worth my time). 80% of the newspaper stories I read now are filtered THROUGH a blog entry recommending it. Hows that for role reversal?
And the same applies to radio. It used to be at the center of my music world, but no more. Now, I listen to podcasts of personalities playing music I like, or streams from services like Pandora and LastFM that let me create my own radio station on the fly or through linking with other like minded (or not like minded) music fans that recommend things I might like.
Even my favorite radio, NPR, is being supplanted by 'talk' podcasts like David Cohen's Coloradostartups, Diggnation, Web2.0show and some old NPR shows that are getting the podcasting religion like This American Life.
The media landscape is changing fast. Media consumers are rapidly shifting from atoms to bits. Long tails are popping up all over. Social networking is driving content creation and consumption more each day. Much of this was predicted back in 1995 when the web really took off, but it didn't happen quickly. But here we are, over 10 years later, and the tipping point may very well have just hit in earnest. As Gates says: we tend to overestimate what will happen in the next year and underestimate what will happen in the next 10.
Did I miss a meme or buzzword in that last paragraph? Yea, but I got the big ones.
It's a great time to be in the middle of the chaos. The Chinese character for chaos is a combination of two other characters : Trouble and Opportunity. I couldn't agree more.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Are early stage startups and normal lives incompatible?
I've been thinking about this the last few months. Much has been written about how todays startups are made up of a bunch of under 25 year old single guys living together in a house they rent to start an internet company.
Well, it's bascially true.
But there's another group that's also well suited for this lifestyle (and it's very much a lifestyle: it effects every part of what you do).
Who? Middle aged folks (between 40-60) who are either single/divorced or empty nesters. It’s not a large percentage of this group. But there’s a lot more potential startup guys in this group than you might think.
I'm in my 40's. I'm divorced. I'm in good health. I don't feel much different than I did when I was 25. I don't party like a 25 year old any more, but I have no problem staying up to 2am, working through weekends and doing whatever it takes. I also have no problem using my personal resources to make this fly, including my house as our office/development lab for the last year. Something tells me if I were married or had a live in girlfriend, that's not something that would have been possible (or, if it had, not gone on for anything close to a year).
In effect, I'm similar to those 25 year olds from a 'point in my life' perspective. I come and go as I please without checking with anyone. I get up when I wake up and go to bed when I'm tired (and the hours aren't even close to 'normal'). I have a social life, but nothing like what a 'normal' single guy in his 40's has. I'm seeing a women, but she'd be the first to tell you it's not a 'normal' relationship (we're lucky if we get one night a week to do anything). It's very much like when I was a 25 year old guy on my own. Only, now I'm a 40 something guy on my own.
The only real differences are financial (I'm at a place most 25 years aren't) and life experience, but that works to our advantage. Having the resources of a house to work from, effectively turned into a sort of residential office building (ahh.. back to that ‘frat house startup thing), not worrying about income for long periods of time and financing the costs of getting everything off the ground and running for a year or so is a real advantage in a startup. Also, having a broad set of experience helps to avoid at least some of the pitfalls, and brings some degree of adult supervision to the party. Some of my folks call me dad though, which both pisses me off and makes me smile.
The reality with a startup is the work comes first. The big difference for me between this and most 40 something's doing a 'day job' is it's also my play. Given a choice in what I'd do in my 'off time'.. well, this is it. So the two (personal and professional lives) merge and become one.
Many would say this is bad, unbalanced, a precursor to burning out. I disagree. Do I want it to always be like this? Well, maybe I'm just not cut from the same cloth as most, but yea, I do. Right now, assuming we succeed with ClickCaster and it goes to it's logical end (being acquired or going public), I would, absolutely, do it again (and again). This must be what they mean when they say 'he's got the bug'. It really does get in your blood.
And to all my 40 something friends who are married with kids still at home with day jobs, car payments and mortgages: you CAN do it, but it's more than a stretch, it's a commitment every bit as big as getting married or having kids. More so in some ways. It's a way of life, and it takes massive amounts of your time and, more importantly, your attention, than you ever dreamed going in.
My guess is only a small percentage of marriages can survive it (and yes, some can). I know though I would not be doing this if I were married. I would not have turned down that mid six figure executive job at the fortune 50 company with my (now ex) wife looking over my shoulder. The privilege of creating something from nothing but your mind, and turning it into something real, useful and valuable in the world doesn’t carry the same weight as the big title and paycheck for many spouses. Nor does the possibility of crashing and burning with zilch to show for it in a couple of years give your significant other a warm fuzzy feeling.
The one's the do make it work, at least that I've seen, have both spouses involved in the business. That, or they have a full and engaging professional life of their own keeping them occupied when you’re working a 16 hour day.
At that point, you have to ask: why are we doing this again? I’ll bet you a day of
And kids? Well, that's a tough one. You're going to miss a lot of their lives. Period. You can tell yourself no, I'll make that work, I'll find the time to get to Heather's play or Bobby's soccer game, but more often than not, you won't. The servers will go down. A key customer will show up at the airport 'on a stopover' and want to meet. Something pressing only you can handle will pop up and you’ll have to handle it and miss that play. It WILL happen.
I know this is going to piss off some people. And it's likely to be skewered by some of my own family and friends as well as many who think it can be done (and are trying to do it). But, I've been there (Married, with a kid) and there's simply no way I, personally, could have done a real startup with all the overhead (yea, I know... it sounds cold, but it's accurate) of a marriage, a family and all that requires in the equation.
Much of what I write about here are the experiences of being a first time CEO and startup guy 'later in life', and this is very much part of it. Most people my age (married and divorced) take the easy route of staying in their good paying jobs, doing something they don't particularly like for a company they don't particularly believe in. It really is easier, more comfortable and a lot less scary than starting a company from scratch.
For me, though, it feels a little like being chained up. Really nice pretty shiny velvet lined chains, but chains nonetheless.
Doing a from scratch technology startup isn't for everyone. I'd say, maybe, 5% of the population can do it; and only a small percentage of that group can actually be successful at it. Society makes it hard for us to break the social contract of getting a good job, finding a mate, having kids and retiring to our 'hobbies'. And for that 95% of the population, it’s a good life. My dad is one of those guys. He’s had a good full life. He’s happily retired from a lifetime job at IBM. He doesn’t fully understand what I’m doing, but he tells me he’s amazed and proud of me for doing it. I’m pretty sure he even means it.
Someone has to start things. Someone, somewhere, sat in a garage or basement or an employers office and thought up IBM, HP, Ford, Apple, CitiBank and all the other big companies millions of us work for today.
We've got to have it, and that small percentage of under 25 year olds who don’t know better and (mostly single, divorced or empty nester) middle aged guys who do know better but have the balls to do it anyway are what it takes to make it happen.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
SEO and politics= just a matter of time.
A GOOGLE SEARCH ON THE name "George Allen"--a Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia running to retain his seat--now returns his official Senate page as the top organic result. But if some bloggers have their way, the top result will instead be "New 'N Word' Woe For George Allen," a CBS News article from September, highlighting the Senator's alleged use of a racial slur.
This is an interesting development. The Dems manipulating SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for their candidates benefit?
If you think of it, also makes complete sense. People likely to vote are also likely to use the internet. If you use the internet a lot, what do you do if you want to know more about someone? You Google them.
the Dems have been getting their butts kicked for years now by Republican media manipulation (Fox News anyone?), but this is an area where they might actually have a chance to level the playing field a bit.
Is it good? No. It sucks. Is it inevitable? Yes. Is there another way? Only if everyone agrees to play fair and that's clearly not happening with the current state of politics. As much as I hate thinking the only way for the Dems to really have an impact is to get down into the mud with their Republican counterparts, who have raised mudslinging to an art form, I don't see any other way for them to have a real shot at reversing their current impotentance in government.
So, a little virtual Viagra for the Dems it is.
Full disclosure: I'm a registered independent (just like my Ma and Pa). Yea.. I know, weird to 'register' as an independent isn't it? That's Colorado for you.
The HELLISH World Of Four, no 5, Browsers
Did they PLAN to make the lives of web focused services companies hell?
It does feel a little like they're picking specifically on us, but I'm sure there are thousands of other small Web2.0 developers saying the same thing right now.
I also think you've just seen the 'rapid' development on the web drop to half speed. At least for awhile.
Why? Because we effectively have to now develop for 4 browser environments. IE6 ,IE7, FF1.5 and FF2.0. And in reality, a 5th as well, Safari on Macs.
And, sadly, these bright shiny new versions of browsers did not bring everyone in line with agreed on standards. In particular IE7. Nothing is simpler, everything is more complex and, now, we have to develop 5 different set of hacks for each browser. At least for the next couple of years.
At least we have some time until Vista comes out.
Well damn, that took all 10 minutes. I wrote the above words and, in my mail I get this:
Like it or not, starting this morning every machine built by Dell, HP/Compaq, eMachines, Sony and many other will be installed with Microsoft Vista as the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) final was issued yesterday.This means we'll start seeing Vista machines on store shelves in about 7-10 days. This also means with the holiday and tax return seasons just around the corner, we'll be seeing people using ClickCaster with Vista.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Is Angel investing good?
Great discussion with Kimbal Musk and Brad Feld, hosted by Podcaster, blogger and investor, David Cohen. Damned interesting stuff. Kimbal, apparently, told David that he no longer believed in angel investment at a tech meetup in Boulder and David decided he wanted to go deeper, and to podcast it. So the three of them met at one of Boulders best restaurants (which happens to be owned by Kimbal) and chatted about it over coffee. Check out David's blog here, and listen to the podcast on ClickCaster here. Or click on the title of this blog entry.
What follows is a recap of the podcast in my own words with some color commentary. If you're going to listen to the podcast, you can skip the rest of this (and I'd encourage you to listen.. it's short, about 22 min, and loaded with great info).
If you’re more of a reader than a listener, then read on…
Kimbal thinks a $500K investment is the same as a $50k investment (you get a prototype, but not alot more). Even with $500K, you don't take enough risk out (due to the cost of entry into your chosen market) to matter to VCs. He thinks some of them can do well with angel money.. they're 'hit's' driven (a pilot in effect). But he thinks as a rule your not going to get users or full technology infrastructure with a ‘real’ angel investment (defined at $500K).
I've got to disagree with him here. Without angel money, ClickCaster, when we launched in Jan, had about 7,000 unique visitors, did about 140GB of data transfer (podcasts being downloaded) and served about a quarter million pages in Jan., our first full month. In Sept., when we closed our angel round, we had several hundred thousand unique visitors, did just under 3 terabytes of data transfer and served a little under 7 million pages. Nothing spectacular, but pretty good considering we didn't spend a dime on building audience and we have yet to get slash-dotted, Dug or Techcrunched. Concerning infrastructure: with about $40K worth of recently purchased vanilla server hardware and no cost LAMR (Linux, Apache, MySQL and RoR ) software, we could handle several million users per month without breaking a sweat. And to add more, we just throw in more servers and bandwidth. That's, generally, pretty good infrastructure. Certainly enough to build a healthy business on.
Brad thinks the $450K extra, for a company that knows how to run cheap ($20K, $30K to $40K a month burn) is a real sweat spot. It allows you to really hone your idea. Especially if you have a business that you can get to revenue quickly. And you can really increase in valuation by doing this. Kimbal does agree with this, if you can get far with that $500K (some real products, some customers) and that's good and removes risk, but he still thinks that market momentum and a strong team require real money (i.e.VC level cash).
Interesting side note: Kimbal thinks that you give up more of the company than we believe needs to happen. In his model you've already given up over 70-80% of the company (or more) before you get to VC's. Personally, I don't think you need to do that. If you bootstrap to the point of having real products and services that get some traction in the market before taking angel money.
We also were pretty lucky in that we have an incredible group of angels. And our board, made up or our angels, is deeply engaged.
The consensus seemed to be that there are two types of angel investment. The first is where the investors put in some money and then walk away; passive angel investment in effect, and as Brad calls it "for profit philanthropy". The other is a deeply involved set of angels where, as Brad says, "they take an active and emotional role in the business". I'd call that engaged angel investing. In our case, Brad was our lead investor, is our chairman and he brought along several of his friends who trust his judgment and know he's more deeply involved than a passive investor would be.
Interestingly, about 2/3rds of the way through the discussion, Kimbal and Brad seemed to come to agreement that the right type of angel investment (the second of the two types above) is, after all, a good thing all around.
Ahh.. so we get to the heart of it: Do it right (right idea, right group, get deeply involved), and angel investing IS something to believe in. Engaged angel investing. So, as with everything else, it's about quality. Kimbal doesn't believe in passive angel investment. Brads view is: just put them into the right category. Passive (the for profit philanthropy)... what Kimbal considers bad angel investment is what it is, and take it for what it is. One thing it isn't: a place to make money. Sort of 'social sport', as David calls it.
Just separate the two and when you invest know which is which.
Just for reference on how they filter angel investments, Kimbal says: Value of the idea and then, the people. Brad says value of the idea (plus, needs to be in a domain he's interested in), then the people, then the geography (if it's not local, it needs to be someone he's worked with in the past).
Interestingly, they pretty thoroughly trash one of my own beliefs which is, 'All I need is one angel round and I'll never need to raise more money". Brad called this, in his usual delicate and succinct way: 'bullshit". His view is you're going to have to either sell your company when the next step is reached (to become something more substantial then they are), or you're going to need to go for institutional investment. Very rarely does a company get to eight figures of revenue without going the institutional investment route (or, at the very least, gets the existing angel network to double down on the first round of investment).
Call me a dreamer (or an idiot), but we're pretty tenacious and I'm keeping my eye on that 'one angel round is all we need' ball. Call it a fantasy, but I believe it can be done. Just because it's nearly impossible to do, doesn't mean you can't do it. I've seen a lot of companies do the impossible and there's no reason we can't be one of them.
I'm not a fool though; we'll develop a plan for future institutional investment, among other things. You've got to have a plan B (and if possible, a C and a D).
To David, Kimbal and Brad: Great job. I wish I'd heard this before I'd gone looking for angel money (and, at the same time, I'm really glad I didn't). And THAT, makes it a excellent podcast. I’ve just hit the high points (for me) here. If you’re interested in hearing how real angel investors think, you owe it to yourself to check out this podcast.
Full Disclosure: Brad and David are angel investors in my company, ClickCaster. Kimbal, sadly for me, is not.
Monday, October 16, 2006
The First Board Meeting Redux
In my last post, I talked about the run up to our first Board of Director's meeting. We had that meeting on Friday.
Sooo... Things I learned from my first board meeting as a first time CEO:
Tell your CMO not to try out his EVDO highspeed wireless card with Skype (for the first time) to call into the meeting.
Make sure you've checked every single one of your spreadsheets and that all the numbers match up perfectly, because your directors are going to find the ones that don't quite jive, guaranteed.
Make sure you have enough time. If you need 3 hours (not, say, 2) Schedule 3- not 2.
If the meeting time gets changed, make very sure all the directors know about it at least a week beforehand, even if you're not setting up the meeting personally. You should, personally, check to make sure everyone's on the same page on day and time. This seems obvious (and like a small thing). It's not.
Ride herd on the time spent on each agenda item. Directors will be happy to go deep and you're almost certain to run out of time before you run out of agenda items you wanted to go over
Make sure all your directors have all the same information in hand when or before you start the meeting, assuming somethings been added since the directors package went out. This is especially true if one or more of your directors is remote.
The more well processed and organized information you have for your directors to work from, the better your output from your directors will be. The opposite of this is also true.
Most of your directors are great at dealing with a lot of data (they do this a lot, they're masters at it really- almost certainly better than you). Don't water it down, don't make it as dense as plutonium; find your board of directors 'data happy place'.
You will get this wrong the first time.
Let them help you. If they want to directly engage in different aspects of your business, your first reaction might be to step back from it: Don't. You cannot buy the kind of help they can give you.
This last one (above) is really important: If you're a new first time CEO, you're used to running the show and doing it your way. And you're most likely used to making all the calls. If you've got a great set of directors, they can multiply your strengths and they can help you (quickly.. maybe a bit painfully.. but quickly) identify where you're weak and help you fill in the gaps.
Identify your directors personality types. You can do a short hand version on a sliding scale with pure metrics/numbers on one end and touchy/feely on the other end.
Director B Director A Director C
Metrics on X How ya feeling about X?
Each of your directors is likely to be able to operate at any point on the scale, but they're most comfortable in one area, most likely weighted toward one end or the other.
Plan your presentation of information (and the help/direction you're going to ask for) to cover the personality types of each of the directors.
Did I do all this? Nope. But I learned from the meeting that, to have a great board meeting, this is (some) of the stuff you should be thinking about and putting in place before the meeting.
How did it go? You'd have to ask my directors, but I'd rate it a C- C+. I clearly have a lot to learn. Luckily, I'm a pretty quick study. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with this group, I'm absolutely certain that we're going to have a much, much more successful company with this board than we would have had without it.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The First Board Meeting
It's been an interesting experience. The board is made up of 3 of our investors (Brad Feld, Niel Robertson and Jerry Colonna) along with Marsha Davis, our CFO and myself.
Brad and Jerry have been on the boards of, I would guess, hundreds of companies. They've been to thousands of these. Niel's started several companies and been to more than his fair share himself.
Me? My first. At least as a CEO.
Yes, I've been one of the guys who presents to the board before (usually some staid group of industry luminaries at a Fortune 50 company). I always knew they were just tolerating me though. They generally weren't really sure what I was talking about (the curse of being the guy in a big company who's presenting the 'vision' and future directions). You'd think they'd find that interesting... oddly, these companies tend to shy away from things that change their businesses. Even really good companies. Like Mike "the Diesel" Spindler, then CEO of Apple, saying to me in a side conversation in the early 90's 'ya, vell...dis Internet ting.. I don't know.."
This is different. These are guys I really like and respect. People that have built or been instrumental in creating very real and successful entities from nothing. Folks I've spent some time with. Guys I'm getting to know. And damned smart.
The process of getting this first meeting together has been interesting, thought provoking, fun and slightly uncomfortable. Most of all, it's been very useful.
The majority of it's been done via email and a get together or two. Niel, Jerry and Brad gave us some area's they wanted to get familiar with, including our latest P&L's, current revenue, our 12 mo. proforma, information on our revenue models, metrics we should be tracking, strategies for dealing with user generated content, product roadmaps and thoughts on cash/funding now and out in the future.
We send them some info, they asked questions, then some more questions. We'd followup with more info. A few more questions and it's the day before the meeting! Just like that. This happened over a two week period. No way would we have been able to go over this much info and have the give and take, ability to answer with reasonably complete answers and the depth in a single board meeting. What do we get from this? A board that's reasonably up to speed on a new business in a new market with a new technology, right out of the gate.
Brad and I got together to talk about it over some great Sushi (if you ever go to Sushi with Brad, let him order, you'll be more than happy with his choices). Jerry, Brad and Niel, based on our information, how we answered, and with what information, quickly zero'd in on the areas they thought we could use the most help and direction. And they nailed it. Brad shared that with me and now I'm going in knowing what the issues are and what we need to work on.
So, the meeting tomorrow will focus primarily on those areas. I doubt we'll spent much time reviewing numbers (we've already done that), and some of the ways our business works (like dealing with content issues ) and other data/reporting oriented tasks. Mostly Covered.
What do we get by being so interactive with the board before hand?
We'll get a full on blast of about 50 years of world class strategic and tactical expertise directly focused on our business. This from guys who've seen just about all of it (from the heights of the dot.com boom to the crash and moribund years following it), and still love doing what they do.
We don't get a meeting where half or 3/4th of the available time is spent going over the numbers and what are really 'reporting' type topics. Special thanks, again, to Andy Sack of Judys Book who talks about how to avoid things like through the painful experience of doing it first. I read, and I learned. Check out his blog for alot of other great insights as well.
Of course, we haven't had the meeting yet, could implode, but I doubt it. Everyone involved is all about making it successful and, after all the prep and interaction, I'm looking forward to it.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Andy's got some magic
This is cool, and I'm going to do it with ClickCaster at our next group meeting.
Andy's the CEO of Judy's Book (click here for the Seattle version of the site: JudysBook ) and he's got some great approaches to business. I've only been reading his blog for a little over a month now and I've already gotten some incredible insights from some of the shortest of posts. Very Zen Andy... keep it up man!
On deadlines and director meetings
All I can say is shit.
Our first Board of Director's meeting is Friday. And we have a big deadline for delivery of a custom podcasting site for one of our customers, and, of course, we rolled out a slew of new features and capabilities, all this week. And, of course, all the fun that goes with it (ton's of directors questions; requests for more info; oh.. yea, that's a serious bug we didn't catch before rollout; you want that new server farm up and running when? That's funny Scott; the artist and the developer fight, all of it at once).
Always seems to work that way doesn't it?
The good news is the team is pulling together well, and we're identifying (and addressing) the holes in our communications systems, processes and methodologies for getting things done.
Sometimes, even though it's damned frustrating some days, overall, I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing than getting this startup company from 'emerging' to real. I haven't worked so hard, slept so little or had so much fun in years.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Gas Price Manipulated To Influence Nov. Elections?
Noticed how drastically the gas prices have come down the last month? I get gas as Costco, and go sometimes 3 or more weeks before filling up (thank you Toyota Yaris) and I keep my receipts. The last price? $2.97 for regular in Mid Sept. Today? $2.29. That's a significant drop. Think there's any connection between that and the upcoming elections? Did you know that Bush's popularity rating is more directly tied to the price of gas than just about any other single polling measure out there? It is.
Ahh.. come on. That can't happen right?
From Lew Rockwells blog (www.lewrockwell.com):
An article appeared this Saturday in the New York Times pointing to some unusual trading by Goldman Sachs in the gasoline futures market. As Raymond Keller, who spotted the article, points out, "They always hide the good stuff in the low circulation Saturday edition."The article's worth reading. One telling paragraph from the New York Times article is worth repeating:
President George W. Bush nominated Henry M. Paulson, Jr. to be the 74th Secretary of the Treasury on June 19, 2006. The United States Senate unanimously confirmed Paulson to the position on June 28, 2006 and he was sworn into office on July 10, 2006. Before coming to Treasury, Paulson was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. So what does Goldman do just weeks after Paulson is sworn in as Treasury Secretary? It announces a subtle move that drives down gasoline prices, short-term. Nice move, coming just months before the election.Give it a read. It's titled "Change in Goldman Index Played Role in Gasoline Price Drop" by Heather Timmons. The article is here (signup required).
Saturday, September 23, 2006
WAL-MART WARNS STUDIOS OVER Apparently, Wally World is feeling the heat from the digital age and worried about sales of those blobs of plastic we lovingly call DVD's. From a story by Tim Arango in the New York Post (click on this entries title for the full story):
Several weeks ago, in the midst of rumors that Apple was close to announcing a deal with Disney, Wal-Mart's David Porter - the executive responsible for stocking the retailer's shelves with DVDs and CDs and whose influence is so immense in Tinseltown that he's been named to Premiere magazine's annual power list - made the rounds of Hollywood studios.
His message, according to a studio exec involved in the discussions: that there would be "serious ramifications" if the studios hopped in bed with Apple.
"They threatened to hurt us in terms of buying less products," said this person.
"Serious Ramifications"? I'm pretty sure those are the exact words used by the Mob's lawyer in The Godfather while talking with a Senator about who would, or wouldn't give them access to the casino's of Las Vegas. Movies, imitating life, imitating movies. Spooky.
With $5 Billion (yep, a B) in DVD sales in Q4 alone, Walmart is by far the largest distributor of movies in the US. This gives them some pretty heavy cred in Hollywood. It's similar to how Blockbuster Video used to help the studios 'decide' what movies would be funded (and not). If you do a historical evaluation of the types of movies sold from the time "BB" (before Blockbuster) and after, you'll see a large number of 'formula' movies spike up as Blockbuster became the McDonalds of Movie distribution.
Now, with DVD players costing $39, it's about retail, and who's the king of retail in this country? Walmart, of course. And so the power curve shifts.
Walmart cuts the price of current DVD's, and makes most of it's profit from DVD's on the 'inventory'. The other 50,000 title's it carries in it's DVD section, where the price is generally higher. But it's limited by the amount of shelf space each store can carry.
Walmart, to date, hasn't been able to translates it's strengths in the logistics of retail overly well to the online world. Largely due to fact that the barriers to entry online are a little less than the cost of building 4000 Walmart stores to blanket the country (does Longmont REALLY need 2 Walmarts? One one on each end of town?).
Our own experience with ClickCaster bares this out. Although nothing close to the potential scale of Apple, we've recently cut a deal with the folks over at Gameznflix (www.gameznflix.com) who have access to a library of thousands of (mostly older) video products that include things like pre WWII cartoons, Hitchcock movies and other stuff that you just don't find on at Walmart (or iTunes). Classic long tail stuff. Their cost to put this up? The price of labor to upload and a broadband connection. They get paid everytime someone downloads a copy though, and the cost of building a 100,000 SF supercenter never enters the equation.
If Apple (and companies like GamezNflix, using technology from companies like ClickCaster) can effectively carry catalogs of digital content that, once encoded and uploaded to a server, have close to a zero distribution cost, the games changed forever. Just look at the music industry for a preview.
How can Walmart compete with this?
- It could jump on the online bandwagon. Build it's own movie distribution service on the web.
- It could expand it's physical DVD distribution by making their DVD sections bigger
- It can threaten the content creators to 'not work with the new guys'
With #2, they'd up their numbers, but the only way to really carry every movie ever made would mean converting entire Walmart supermarts to massive DVD stores. Even then, they'd miss a few of the more obscure titles (companies like ClickCaster are already making it possible for someone to make an indie movie, upload it and sell it online at zero cost to the movie maker until the movie sells when a cut is then taken by the distributor.. but not before). And the cost of managing the physical inventory would make them uncompetitive with the near zero cost of digital distribution.
With #3, well, I'd expect the DOJ to get involved if they actually DID anything to retaliate against the studios (or any content providers). You can't go around saying "use the new guy and I'll break your legs". I know Walmart's similar to the Mafia in many ways, but this would be just a little too blatant, even for our business friendly culture.
So what's going to happen?
It'll take 5 years, maybe more, but with broadband more ubiquitous then dialup, and computers more than powerful enough to run people's media lives (including their TV's), the power base will shift.
The movie industry can get in bed, fast, with the digital distribution guys, or it can end up like the recording industry, losing double digits in sales year over year and suing their customers.
The User Generated Content effect:
There will always be demand for high quality, highly produced movies. But it'll drop off as more and more interesting content from the rest of us becomes available.
When I can buy an HDTV quality video camera for $600, with a built in 40 gig hard disk, I can make a movie. Will it suck? Yea, that's likely. Will all of them suck? Nope. We see it now in the music world. You can buy a studio quality mixer and mics for $300. Software, $100. Computer, $500. $900 (new) and you've got a real recording studio. And don't tell me that the quality of music has gone in the toilet. What we're seeing is really good and some great musicians are now able to create their own 'albums' (whatever that means nowadays) and distribute them through multiple channels (iTunes, MySpace, Raposdy, and a dozen others) that were never available to them before. They are very effectively bypassing the recording studios. What's different here between the movie and recording industries? I'm not seeing much difference at all. The only real difference is the movie industry has A CHANCE to do it right. Will they? I sincerely hope so.. but I have my doubts.
And Walmart, in the end, becomes the place you can buy the fewer and fewer big budget movies made and distributed as overpriced blobs of plastic for your $39 walmart DVD player.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
GREAT article in the Rolling Stone on how Bush did, indeed, rig the 2004 election. Lots of pretty compelling arguments and statistical analysis that shows that's what happened (Bush being elected) was, pretty much, impossible. I love the title. That question mark at the end is one of the tricks networks like Fox use to make accusations without having to support claims. Kind of like saying "Could your mother be a whore?" (Thanks to Jon Stewart for this example). An excerpt from the article:
But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election.So what you say? Nothing we can do about it now. True. But you can effect the next round. Get your butt to the polls this November and vote. Plain and simple. Enough people are aware of this that it's unlikely they'll be able to pull it off again (and since it's not a presidential election and alot harder to coordinate since it's so distributed, it's unlikely they'll try, or so we can hope).
Read the article. It's intelligently written, full of facts and level headed. Every American should give it a good read and spend a few contemplative moments thinking about what it means, and what they need to do to make sure it doesn't happen this way again.
Click on the title of this posting to go to the article, or use this:
The US National Debt
Today? Well let the US National Debt clock tell the story:
U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK
The Outstanding Public Debt as of 17 Sep 2006 at 07:36:58 PM GMT is:
The estimated population of the United States is 299,521,300
so each citizen's share of this debt is $28,487.27.
$1.70 billion per day since September 30, 2005.
Above is a graph that gives you a visual representation over time.
Now, I know that the Republicans have a semi-unstated goal of bankrupting the federal government in order to lessen the influence of government in our lives. But I've got to ask is this is something that works.
I'm technically an independent. I don't really follow a party line. But I know one thing: If I ran my personal life, or my business, remotely close to how the current republican administration is running our country, I'd be both personally bankrupt and out of business.
America's heading toward being the shortest lived 'world power' in history. And I'd say, from a purely fiscal perspective, this has got to be an intentional policy on the part of the Republicans (who are TOTALLY in control right now with the white house, the congress, the senate AND the US Supreme court, with the recent placement of right leaning justices, all in their power.)
So, I've got to lay this (and many many other problems) squarely at the doorstep of the Republicans.
When Clinton handed over the government to the Republicans, we had a rapidly expanding economy, low interest rates, rising home values, full employment, respect among the world powers and world wide (relative) peace.
What do we have today?
Monday, August 28, 2006
My First DECLINED LinkedIn invitation!
An old collegue from Apple Computer (who, albiet, I didn't know well, I just remembered her name) TURNED DOWN my LinkedIn invitation!
A first! I'm sad. And a bit happy. I'm glad to see that there's at least some degree of filtering going on. I know I've said no to alot of the guys just looking to add names to their list, but not all of them (LinkIn 'notches' on the belt... so to speak.. God, when I think of it, I feel so... used....sigh).
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Bob Dylan... Luddite!
Bob Dylans a Luddite!
What's interesting about this is he's been on the cutting edge of music for so long, and is obviously using digital technology in the studio.
I wonder if he's releasing the new album on vinyl.
Who'd a thought? From Wired:
Bob Dylan says the quality of modern recordings is "atrocious," and even the songs on his new album sounded much better in the studio than on disc.
"I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really," the 65-year-old rocker said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Dylan, who released eight studio albums in the past two decades, returns with his first recording in five years, Modern Times, next Tuesday.
Noting the music industry's complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, "Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway."
"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them," he added. "There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static."
Dylan said he does his best to fight technology, but it's a losing battle.
"Even these songs probably sounded 10 times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it."
Guess it's ok to pirate anything he does that's been digitized eh?
Monday, August 21, 2006
Verizon's now making up fee's, literally
Anyone who thinks the phone company will do the right thing and 'pass on savings to the consumer' just got a nice screw you from Verizon.
Apparently, the government stopped requiring Verizon charge a universal fee to help cover the cost of phone service coverage in rural areas on DSL lines. From $1.20 to $2.80 a month. Your bill should drop by that much now, right?
Not so much. The unvarnished word directly from Verizon:
"Effective August 26, Verizon will charge a Supplier Surcharge for all DSL customers. The surcharge helps offset costs we incur from our network supplier. The Supplier Surcharge will be $1.20/month for 768Kbps service customers and $2.70/month for higher DSL speeds.What happened here? They instituted some made up cost they have been 'absorbing for some time' to match the drop in price. They also, of course, neglected to detail what this extra cost was (other than: we're losing money in our landline phone business.. doh.. you and the rest of the world).
Verizon Online will cease charging an FUSF recovery fee, beginning August 14, 2006. The impact of the elimination of the FUSF fee is for DSL customers up to 768Kbps, fee eliminated is $1.25.month; for DSL customers of up to 1.5Mbps and 3Mbps services, the fee eliminated is $2.83/month. On balance your total bill will remain about the same as it has been or slightly lower."
I've got no beef with Verizon making money. Really. But when they could pass on the savings of a government tax that is no more, and instead just tack it onto your bill as some random fee to keep the money you've been 'trained' to pay out already, I have to ask: what else are they tacking on and charging for that has no value other than to add pure profit?
These guys operate as near monopolies. I'm no fan of government regulations (being a libertarian hippie and all), but some guys just need watching.
Verizon is one of these guys.
They've effectively evoked a rate hike of hundreds of millions of dollars on their users, without a single regulator getting a look at it (or, it seems, caring much about it).
This is from today's Wall Street Journal (and even they seem to be looking at it a big cockeyed):
Verizon Adds New DSL SurchargeBy AMY SCHATZ and DIONNE SEARCEY
August 21, 2006 4:09 p.m.
For Verizon Communications Inc.'s Internet customers, monthly bills won't be dropping after all.
Last year, the government changed the rules so DSL subscribers would no longer have to pay into a federal fund which subsidizes phone services in rural areas and for low-income consumers. That promised to shave a dollar or two off a typical DSL Internet bill -- $1.25 a month for Verizon's slower DSL service and $2.834 a month for its faster service.
But Verizon recently emailed subscribers, announcing that it will drop the universal service surcharge as of Aug. 14 and impose a new "supplier surcharge" beginning August 26. The new fee -- $1.20 a month for slower service customers and $2.70 a month for faster ones -- is almost exactly what consumers would have saved with the government's change. Essentially customers' bills won't fall at all.
It appears that Verizon is essentially pocketing the money that consumers would have gotten back, although the company disputes that notion. It says it will eventually impose the fee on all of its six million or so DSL customers because of increased costs of providing stand-alone Internet service, which is purchased at a premium by consumers who don't subscribe to its phone service.
"We have a cost that we have been absorbing for a long time. We're not going to absorb it anymore," said Bobbi Henson, a Verizon spokeswoman. The new charge will not apply to subscribers with annual Internet contracts until those agreements expire.
It's not clear how many other phone companies will use the change to impose new charges on consumers.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission changed rules that govern DSL Internet lines and dropped the obligation to pay into the $7.3-billion Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes phone services in rural areas and for low-income consumers. That change takes effect this month for all DSL Internet providers.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Windows Live Writer: Just Stupid?
Alright.. isn't the point of web 2.0 to be on the WEB? Isn't the concept of a downloable application like this just announced Windows Live Writer from Microsoft against everything Windows Lives is supposed to be? (LIVE.. like.. right there... on the web. AJAX, WebApps, yadayada.... you know Web 2.0...).
Introducing Windows Live Writer
Welcome to the Windows Live Writer team blog! We are excited to announce that the Beta version of Windows Live Writer is available for download today.
Windows Live Writer is a desktop application that makes it easier to compose compelling blog posts using Windows Live Spaces or your current blog service.
Blogging has turned the web into a two-way communications medium. Our goal in creating Writer is to help make blogging more powerful, intuitive, and fun for everyone.
Am I missing something or is this as it appears: just stupid?
I'm actively deleting my stand alone applications from my computer. I use google spreadsheet for 80% of the spreadsheet stuff I do now (simple ones at least). I use writely as my wordprocessor. We use ActiveCollab for ClickCasters project tracking. We use fogbugz for our feature and bug tracking. We use email, IRC and, sometimes (rarely) the phone for communications.
The only application I'm still stuck with is Powerpoint and I've seen some reasonable potentials in the works for that on the web of late as well.
I thought Microsoft might have started to 'get it' with their LIVE initiative, and had this come from, say, the Office group, no biggie, but it's FROM the LIVE group. That can only mean that the people in charge don't, after all, get it.
I'll be selling the last of my Microsoft stock on Monday.
Cars: Stepping down while stepping up
At 40MPG, this little beastie puts even the Mini Coopers high 20's low 30's to shame.
I paid about $12,500 for it. (actually, I traded the Mini and got a nice big check back).
I've owned Porche's, Lexus and Audi's. I've spent twice the average American's annual income on a single car several times. I've come to the conclusion it's just dumb. That 12 MPG Landcruiser cost as much as 5 of these cars. Did I ever take it off road? Did it save my ass in a pileup? Was there really any reason to buy it other than it was big, it was impressive and it was expensive?
I suppose some of it is just: I don't care what others think of what I'm driving anymore. Yea, I used to. I admit it. I just don't anymore. And, having lived in startup company land the last year or two, I've really grown to love the 'less is more' approach to life and business.
We're just now closing a round of financing from a group of really great people and, damn it, I'm going to do everything (personal and professional) to use that money they trusted me with as if it were my own. So, how do I spend my discretionary income on cars? Do I blow it on an Audi Twin Turbo TT for $50K? Or do I get the Yaris liftback at $12.5K?
Simple. Yaris! And if I do it there, I'll do it in the business too. "Just enough" is really the best approach to life in my book.
And, I also have to admit that my sense of the environment is greater now than ever before. All the news on global warming has me slightly freaked. I think some of it is overblown, but I also think some of it is dead on accurate.
If we can each make a small dent by using less resources as individuals, it makes the world a slightly better place for all of us. And if we can achieve the same goals (like: getting from point A to point B in a car) doing that: all the better.
Simplistic stuff, but it's the simple stuff that adds up to overall big change, in our personal life, in our businesses and in the world in general.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Does Apple believe in OpenSource? Really?
By ScuttleMonkey on on-the-road-again Today Apple announced a few expanded open source efforts. First, beginning with Mac OS X 10.4.7, the Darwin/Mac OS X kernel, known as "xnu", is again available as buildable source for the Intel platform, including EFI utilities. Second, iCal Server, Bonjour, and launchd are moving to Apache 2.0 licensing. And finally, Mac OS Forge has been launched, as the successor to OpenDarwin as a conduit for hosting projects such as WebKit that were formerly hosted by the OpenDarwin project's servers, such as WebKit. Mac OS Forge is sponsored by Apple. DarwinPorts has already moved to its own servers. Update: 08/08 01:43 GMT by J : The official Apple announcement is now out. Other fun news: Leopard will ship with Ruby on Rails.
Something tells me this isn't going to work. They originally tried this with Darwin and formed OpenDarwin. Just last month, that community of developers shut down the project. The reason? Apple didn't play well with others. From: http://www.opendarwin.org/
OpenDarwin Shutting Down
OpenDarwin was originally created with the goal of providing a development environment for building and developing Mac OS X sources as well as developing a standalone Darwin OS derivative. OpenDarwin was meant to be a development community and a proving ground for fixes and features for Mac OS X and Darwin, which could be picked up by Apple for inclusion in the canonical sources. OpenDarwin has failed to achieve its goals in 4 years of operation, and moves further from achieving these goals as time goes on. For this reason, OpenDarwin will be shutting down.
Over the past few years, OpenDarwin has become a mere hosting facility for Mac OS X related projects. The original notions of developing the Mac OS X and Darwin sources has not panned out. Availability of sources, interaction with Apple representatives, difficulty building and tracking sources, and a lack of interest from the community have all contributed to this. Administering a system to host other people's projects is not what the remaining OpenDarwin contributors had signed up for and have been doing this thankless task far longer than they expected. It is time for OpenDarwin to go dark.
Project admins for all active projects have been notified, and we will be working with them to provide as seamless a transition to their new homes as possible. We don't want to boot anyone off, we will be operating the machines as usual for several months, until everyone has had a chance to move elsewhere.
We will continue to provide email and dns redirection after the machines go dark. We'll be looking at what other redirection services are needed and can be provided after hosting has ceased.
The OpenDarwin team would like to thank everyone who did contribute to the project, and our apologies to active, loyal projects that have to move.
- OpenDarwin Core Team and Administrators
So I've got to wonder if this most recent attempt by Apple isn't something along the same lines. What's different here? By what I can see, not much. Same people at Apple. The likely result: Same indifference. Apple is, by nature, a closed ecosystem. Look at the Mac. Even more so.. look at the iPod/iTunes juggernaut. If there's one thing that goes against all things Apple, it's the concept of OpenSource (unless, of course, it benefits Apple in a way that lets them take, but not give back).
If I were an OpenSource developer, I'd take a long hard and cynical look at this before I spent my time and energy on another Apple 'OpenSource' project.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Media Meltdown? Nope.. it's the aggregation of old and new media
Chris Anderson, of "The Long Tail" fame has some interesting figures on traditional media.
Mainstream Media Meltdown III
A couple times a year, I take a statistical look at mainstream en
tertainment and media in decline. All figures are year-on-year comparisons unless otherwise noted. (The last version of this, from November, is here).
- TV: netwo rk TV had its lowest ratings week ever in July.
- Music: weekly album sales set a 10-year low in July. For the year, CD album sales are down 4.2%; although digital single downloads (still less than 10% of the business) are up 77% and are nearly making up the difference in revenue terms.
- Radio: the music radio listening audience is down 8.5% this year alone, continuing a multi-decade decline.
- DVDs: shipments are down 4% so far this year, more than 30 million units behind the same period last year.
- Newspapers: circulation, which peaked in 1987, is declining faster than ever and is down another 2.6% so far this year.
- Magazines: ad revenues are up 3.7% although the total number of ad pages is flat (they're charging more per page). Newsstand sales are at an all-time low, while total circulation was down 0.3% last year.
- Books: up slightly so far this year (but still lagging behind overall retail growth).
- Box Office: is up by 5.8% so far this year (but still down 4.2% from 2004).
- Videogames: The long slump caused by the next-gen hardware transition (Xbox-to-Xbox 360 and PS2-to-forthcoming-PS3) seems to have finally ended. June sales were up 25%.
- Internet advertising: is on pace to grow by 21% this year. Google's revenues grew by 77% in the most recent quarter.
Posted by Ch
ris Anderson in Media Meltdown | Permalink
The opportunity lies in embracing the splintering segmentation and getting ahead of the technology, just enough, to aggregate what makes sense and ignore the rest. A good example of this is Feedburner (www.feedburner.com).
The recently announced that they will be creating aggregations of feeds targeted at specific audiences. They'll, in effect, take RSS content, put a managing editor in charge of the 'collection' and make it available with a headline (like: VC blogs, or Indie Podcasts).
Sound like a new take on that venerable old media institution the Newspaper or Magazine? Yea, does to me too. It's editorial perspective from a trusted source (i.e. the managing editor persona.. usually someone well known, respected and trusted in a specific community of interest).
Pretty clever on Feedburners part. They're collecting feeds from 100's of thousands of places (and getting paid for the service), then, they segment and create editorial perspective around collections of the feeds. This drives marketing dollars (i.e. advertising) to their feeds which puts more money into people's pockets that host their RSS feed with feedburner, and creates additional value for the aggregated collection of 'trusted' feeds around specific interests.
I take it back, not pretty clever, frakkin brilliant. Not only do they not disintermediate the hand that feeds them (traditional media and new media alike) they make it more valuable individually, and collectively. All the while, potentially, creating entirely new classes of 'super' managing editors.. like Brad Feld, who's doing the VC collection of feeds... and I predict, will be one of the main 'go to guys', globally, for anything VC, media and blog related 12-18 months from now.
He's who the editor of the New York Times will call first on matters of VC importance. The question that comes to mind for me is: who's likely to be more listened to by the people that matter in that particular area of interest in late 2007? The NYT's or Brad and other RSS feed managing editors? I love it.
But.. that's just my opinion. I could be wrong (betcha I'm not though).
What if I'd been born in India and not the US?
THIS is what. heh. Check it out
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Web Video and the Cambrian Period
Hmmm..... read that second sentence
Web Video Madness!
USA Today columnist Kevin Maney says the Web video craze has gone off the deep end. How long will consumers be content to watch videos of people slathering butter on their heads to combat graying hair? Or teenyboppers bouncing around lip syncing to pop music? "Web video sites are proliferating like bunnies that broke into a vat of Viagra," he says. Noted tech blogger Om Malik simply calls it "the madness." There are now more than 240 online video sites. Venture Capital firms invested upward of $156 million in online video in the first half of 2006. Most of these sites will fail, Maney says, just like all the Web-retailing sites of the mid-to-late Nineties. Remember eToys and pet'scom? Well, now we have Eefoof, Bix, Guba, Stickam, and Frozen Hippo, each wanting to become the next YouTube. "This is classic American capitalistic thinking," Maney says, "believing that if there's one prize in the box, there must be another--even though such thinking is usually proved wrong." He says business is still looking for the next Google, eBay, and Netscape. And he reminds us of the dark side of video sites: "For all its usage, YouTube isn't making any money yet. These other guys are copycats at best, offering very little to differentiate themselves from the leader." -
Honestly? ME! If slathering butter on my hair gets rid of grey.. well hell.. I'll try that! ;-)
All you have to do is go to standard broadcast outlet (you know, that TV thing in the basement) and tune into a 'reality television' show.
Watch one of these. Take out the highlights (and pull all the fake 'tension' of 15 minutes of crap before they make the hot blonde eat a live African tree spider)... hey.. it's YouTube!
There is an (apparently) insatiable appetite for this stuff. Average people doing (sometimes) extraordinary things. Or, just average people doing average things... even that seems to catch folks fancy.
Plug in the Long Tail equation that the internet provides and you've got an almost infinite audience for almost all content, no matter how bad.
I do agree there will be a shakeout (there always is) but it makes sense. We're in the Cambrian period of internet video. Remember reading about that in school? It was the period in Earths history where 99% of all living things that ever existed on the planet lived.... only 1% remains. You've got to have that Cambrian explosion to decide what designs work right, throw out the silly creatures with 5 legs and 3 heads and settle on that 'best' 1%.
And, of course, the ride is always fun. Enjoy it while it lasts.
The Fascist Playbook
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