Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Facebook, Friendfeed, the Real Time Stream, and RL

Today’s big news, in case you are — let’s just say — a surgeon in the operating room or the President in a Summit–is that Facebook acquired Friendfeed. I have several minor insights to contribute to the conversation about this:

1)Only the unemployed or underemployed even know about it yet, because they are the only people with the time to participate in the real time stream. The folks who spend their lives in corporate meetings, teaching children, or walking police beats probably will find out later. The real time stream is a nice idea, but there are entire days when I can’t dip my toe into it until dinner time. It is, therefore, of minimal utility to most people.

Today I happened to be down for routine maintenance (manicure, pedicure, hair colored) so I was available for the stream, which soon became a tsunami, to wash over me.

2)There has been a firestorm of sadness (what a mixed metaphor) from Friendfeed early adopters, and a mass of questions from pundits about what Facebook is going to “do” with Friendfeed.  Do They don’t know what they are going to do. They bought it because it was doing some things they felt were important and they either wanted to remove it deftly from the market or get a look at it up close and personal so they could knock off its features better.  Or both. But it’s like when you buy a sweater.  You think you know what you will wear it with, but it doesn’t become a worthwhile purchase until you find something absolutely unexpected in your closet that it updates and improves.

3) Or maybe they just wanted to make an acquisition, because they can. And because companies that make acquisitions get noticed by investment banks and maybe get to go public and cash out more early investors and employees.

4)At any rate, this is typical echo chamber news — fascinating to the people in Silicon Valley and of little consequence to global warming, health care reform, or Afghanisan. Or is it?  Can we use it to share breaking news? Naaaah, that”s Twitter. So what are these two platforms, now joined in unholy alliance, good for?

5)Community and conversation.  That’s what they have in common, how they differ from, and probably don’t even compete with, Twitter.  And that’s why they probably belong together.

Time to get the color rinsed out of my hair:-) The real time stream is the gray going down the drain and the blonde replacing it.

And boys, it’s only business.  Friendfeed wasn’t your baby. Get over it

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Who’s Making Money in Mobile

After listening to Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm talk about where they are focusing, which unsurprisingly includes health care  and remote patient monitoring, the panel at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit on who is making money in the mobile space went off into much more  interesting business models. They convinced me we have only begun to see money made on mobile platforms — ANY mobile platforms.

Moderated by Mark Newhall, co-founder of IdeaWave Solutions and INmobile.org, the panel consisted of Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous,, which develops social games for the iPhone;  Simon Khalaf, CEO of Flurry, a mobile analytics firm; Matt Murphy, a KPCB partner in the space; Dorian Porter, CEO of Mozes, a text company; and Purnima Kochikar, a VP at Nokia.  Yes, I knew mobile was coming, and has been coming for a decade, but a lot of my assumptions were outdated.

First of all, as you may have expected, the iPhone changed everything. People now pay for things they wouldn’t pay for before on the web. Music was obviously first, but Bart Decrem said that although he thought a million users in a year was an audacious goal, Tapulous is now in its second year and has 15 million unique installs and about 10 million users. Its revenue has doubled every twelve months. And that’s “just” a gaming application–TapTap Revenge. He thinks he will get to be a $100m company.

He also noted an amazing engagement on the Apple platform, which means people actually keep the apps on the phone and interact with them. That’s important because it makes way for in-application ecommerce and advertising. And every time he releases a new product now, his revenue spikes.

So clearly mobile is a disruptive platform, and application developers are already making money. There are 64,000 apps in the App store now, and $.99 can be a profitable price point. The app store is actually growing at 25x the rate of iTunes, and even the paid apps part is growing at 7X ITunes. A lot of money will be made in software.

Who is not making money right now? Carriers. Formerly in control of the show, they are now buying business, hoping to make it up in volume later, as big brands enable online marketing strategies and they can take a piece of the revenue. That kind of direct marketing through mobile devices is still in its infancy.

After all the talk about iPhones, it was fascinating to hear Purinima talk about Nokia.  She’s got the global view outside of smart phones, and she said Nokia has realized two areas that people will pay for, even in developing countries whose populations do not have smart phones.
1) Complete indulgences – games, efarts, etc.  Ads work here, on premium game content.  Video ads inside gaming content are much better targeted, and pull good CPMs and different CPMs. So different that the Army uses in-game ads for recruiting tools and find them extremely effective. The Army’s entire business process has been altered by its use of mobile gaming applications.
2)Self-improvement – the bottom of the pyramid really wants to pay for this, and they are the long tail. There are entire
populations discovering things on the phone instead of the PC. Their three high priority needs: Get ahead in life, get more money, get a wife.  They will pay for this, usually on a cash subscription model. Smart phones are only 10% of the market globally,  the rest still being feature phones. Feature phones can be enabled to give access to lots of apps through proxy browsing, and that will teach many young people in developing countries to move up to smart phones, which are aspirational to them today.

FCarriers, out of power in the new environment, are now interested in supporting multiple app stores. Similar business interests around mobile ads, mobile marketing, mobile payments will encourage carriers to move fast and participate in direct-to-consumer economy. They can participate by setting up open stores. They can’t control anything. (Decrem: For iPhone, Apple controls the carriers and app developers don’t even have to deal with carriers anymore.)

Final words of advice to would-be successors to Tapulous: develop first for the iPhone, and then for Android. Blackberry’s a distant third that needs to get its act together, and for Palm, it’s too early to tell. It is, however, a land grab right now in the mobile space.photo-6

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Is Social Media a Waste of Time?

No way. Social media has given me a platform on which to share my knowledge of things I care deeply about. Health care and the environment are two of those, and still another is the current economic crisis and how it is affecting me and my world. Without social media, I’d be in a far smaller community around these very troubling issues, and I could easily be very depressed.

Most people also think I care deeply about new technology, because I write so much about it. They’re wrong. I only care about technology to the extent that it enables a person like me, well-informed about things I care about, to offer some information to people who don’t have the time to acquire it first-hand, and to gain strength from others who have found ways to deal with problems I also have.

I start with Google Reader, through which I subscribe to a dozen trade journals and blogs each about health care, environmental issues, and economics. I also subscribe to tech journals and blogs, and to major news sources like the New York TImes, Wall Street Journal, and my local papers in Arizona and on the Coastside in northern California. I read about 1000 items a day, often just scanning to weed out repetition. I try to read several sides of controversial issues, so I know how the doctors, the insurance companies, the patients, and the IT people feel about health care. When something’s really good, I “share” it with other friends of mine who are on Google Reader.

But it doesn’t stop there. I want to discuss what I read with people who can either help me understand it, or tell people what I’ve found out. So I also maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter. On the latter, I maintain several accounts. One’s for general posts; another is @azentrepreneurs, and is specific to Arizona’s entrepreneurship community. Still a third is @ushealthcrisis, which a colleague and I use for our volunteer web site with health care reform information.

When, in the course of my day, I come across something that might help or interest one of these “constituencies,” I post a link or a mention to one of those accounts. Less important for general sharing, but very important for learning more, is Friendfeed, which aggregates the combined knowledge of many educated and intelligent friends and acquaintances of mine, often in extended conversations. Every so often, to spread news of professional opportunities and networking events, I’ll even use a status update on LinkedIn.

And oh yes, in addition to all this, I blog. That’s mainly a place to display my own thoughts and syntheses.

Do I tell people on Twitter what I had for breakfast? Never. Do I write about my personal problems? Only if they can be a metaphor or an example for other people’s experiences (like my effort to modify my mortgage loan). People who are not using social media always worry about lack of privacy. My theory? If you don’t want people on these platforms to know something, don’t tell them.

Now let me answer the questions I get asked all the time when I tell people what I’ve just written about.

"Wasting TIme on Social Media"How much time does this take every day? As much as I want it to take. If I’m very busy working, very little. On other days, or perhaps in the evening when there’s “nothing” on the 200 channels of digital TV in my home, several hours. It’s not a compulsion; it’s a pleasure. It makes me feel like 19th century people used to feel in a salon. Participation is a choice.

And what does it do for me?
It has introduced me to an entire new community of engaged, educated people who discuss the world. These people are located anywhere — Brazil, China, New York, India. It finds me friends, investments, and cousins I haven’t heard from in years. It increases the time I spend talking with my brother.

And last, but not least, it makes me money. It exposes me to the world and people can hire me to advise, to write, to teach. In other words, sometimes when you are useful, there’s a payoff:-) And no, I do not call myself a “social media guru.” I leave that for others.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Daily Living, Early Adopter Stuff, Entrepreneurship, Social Media

LiveBlogging #CrunchUp for the Folks at Home

There’s no way not to love Ron Conway’s experience. Here at Crunchup, he’s talking about the startups he has invested in with John Borthwick from BetaWorks, Steve Gillmor, and Mike Arrington. He has made two fabulous points so far. The first is very general, but tells the story of the difference between Silicon Valley and other areas of the country that hope to be centers for entrepreneurship. :Here in Silicon Valley, we invent something first, see if there’s a market, and then monetize it.”

This is a very telling comment that presumes the availability of capital to support the new concept or technology until it is ready to be monetized. He said it with respect to Twitter, a product almost everyone is curious about. How will Twitter make money?

Here are the top ten, according to Ron, ways Twitter can be monetized. Although Arrington pushed him for his entire list of 30, which he said he summarized in an email to Evan Williams a while ago,(update: Arrington grabs the email out of his hand and finds out it’s really to Heather Hardie) he wouldn’t reveal the entire list, so there’s something even better in the cards. His Top Ten list includes
lead generation
coupons
analytics
crm
payments via real time web
commerce
user authentication
syndication of new ads
context sensitive ads
display ads, and
acquiring followers

This panel agrees that much is also happening outside Silicon Valley, especially as we begin to participate in real time communications on a large scale. John Borthwick of Betaworks says his company has just announced a $sm investment in Tweetdeck, which stores groups and search, and navigates and manages streams. Betaworks has also incubated bit.ly, which has gone in less than a year from incubation to 27 million decodes a day thru its partnership with Twitter. (Arrington pushing to know when bit.ly will sell to Twitter.)

Which brings me to the next point Ron makes that I loved: “real time stream” is the wrong term for what’s happening now, because it doesn’t take into account the social nature of these conversations. Instead, let’s call in something like “now media,” which makes more of the social interaction that takes place.

For me, the real time is not nearly as important as the social. Because I live in two cities, I have two sets of friends. There’d be no way I could stay in touch with both without the now-media-social-real-time-stream. I’m ecstatic that SIlicon Valley will invent things I can use without worrying how they will make money. And this is why, at the end of the recession, Silicon Valley will recover. It’s the people, stupid.

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A Different Kind of Crowdsourced Design

In November, we’ll be hosting the Fourth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, with a roster of great participants, cool networking opportunities, and even good food. But a web site that doesn’t brand the conference or do it justice. I put it up last year i a hurry, and I looked at it this year and hated it.azec So I called Brent Spore.

Brent’s one of the most creative people I know, and he had just started a web show called Starving Designer. to harness the power of the social graph to improve design.

Now this isn’t the old form of design competition, where you ask people to submit designs and you choose one, thereby honoring one participant and disappointing all the rest. Rather, Brent is using each design as a teaching tool, and a way designers can learn from one another, or non-designers can learn what makes a good design. It’s collaborative, not competitive. It’s transparent, open, and real time. And you can participate as much or as little as you want. Everyone learns, and often no one gets paid, as these sites are often done pro bono or for very little.

You should probably watch the evolution of our design on Brent’s own site.

First, he held a live design session. Then he took all the comments, incorporated them, and began posting the results on Flickr and Twitter. People offered comments. He tried them and posted them, and took more comments. Because he got so many people who had been to the conference to participate, the comments were like a focus group.

You should read his post to see how he got from what you saw on top to what’s below:
3632767415_38fdbb98d5_b

I’m exceedingly happy with it; especially with all the community input. As soon as we get the copy moved over, it will launch. Remember, you saw it first here:-)

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The Next Generation of the Internet, Part Two

Five more companies you may want to know about from Launch Silicon Valley. The general takeaway from this is the preponderance of peer-to-peer services as a way of lowering the cost of streaming content, and the general movement to the cloud.

Update: Here’s the second set of companies.

CellWand isn’t really next generation of Internet; it’s mobile voice apps accessed through abbreviated dialing codes (#taxi #home #pizza). It’s a pay per use app ($1.25-1.79 per call), partnered with carriers. They get big margins from loyal users, and use the wireless carriers, alcohol companies, and media partners for marketing. CellWand is live in Canada, and penetrates at 1 call per 250 mobile phone users. If they penetrate similarly in the US, that would be $1m/month revenue. They also use the carrier billing systems. They have locked up all the Canadian carriers


Surf Canyon
– delivers relevant personalized search results. It re-ranks results according to what you might have clicked on from the first search — on the fly, in real time. Another Firefox add-on, also works on IE. And for good measure, it also personalizes the sponsored links. Works with Bing, Yahoo, Google.

Dacast, a product of Andolis LLC believes the future of TV is multicast. The company has a peer to peer system to cut the cost of live streaming and unite all the Dacast users in an ecosystem. That allows for more appropriate advertising to users. So Datacast is free for content owners, cheaper to stream, and more carefully targeted. The company projects profitability by end of 2010. Every player wins: Advertisers get more clicks, users get free content, content owners get more money.

Wowd – is now in private beta. It turns the wisdom of crowds into useful work finding content, tagging itself “the web you want.”
“Wowd connects people to a planet’s worth of content.”

YOICS “Your Own Internet Connected Stuff”
Cloud IT services for the rest of us. Private bookmarks only available to you or people you are connecting to, using the internet as your own private LAN. This could also be used for security services, and you would be able to see it on any browser anywhere.

You can use it as a replacement for an FTP service. You can download the Yoics app, drag a file form your computer to it, and make it accessible to a selected group (like a graphic designer could do for clients).

It will be interesting watching these people get acquired by the already-existing companies in the internet space. I think none of them are really stand alones. Again, I’ve jumped to a conclusion here:-)

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Jumping to Conclusions: The Next Generation Internet

For many reasons, I’m interested in the next generation Internet. This morning, I’m at Launch SIlicon Valley, watching ten companies in this space present their concepts.

I haven’t finished listening, but I have already jumped to my conclusion. According to these presenters (who were quite good, by the way), the next generation of the internet solves problems created by the current generation of the Internet.

In other words, it’s full of refinements and improvements, rather than big technological jumps. A better process here, a better algorithm there, and lots of emphasis on smart phone apps or Firefox add-ons. The most interesting company by far was from China, which is definitely kicking our ass in next-gen internet stuff according to this presenter, the first Chinese company ever to present at this conference.

World’sLaw is a legal service. Its competitor is Legal Zoom, but these guys have attorneys, while Legal Zoom is only document preparation services.
By Jobi – a power search with saved search with timelines and keywords, language and location, domains and file types. It’s a power search built on top of Google
GazoPa similar image search. Uses features such as color and shape to find images, and uses the image itself, not just keywords, as the search key.
The founder actually drew a watch on his computer, uploaded it, and got photos of watches back. Even now, it has an iPhone app to upload pictures from your iPhone and search images.
With current mage search engines, if large volume of data, can’t return images quickly. But for them, the more data they have, the better they can return
Gliider – manages travel for you. It holds on to your travel information, replacing bookmarks, cut and paste, printed documents. ‘There’s no good way to hold on to my travel info when I am planning a trip.” It’s now in private beta, and is a Firefox add-on.
Gamexiu. Games and social networks are two fastest growing segments in China. 16,000,000 games, growing at 17% a year. 200,000,000 users are on social networks in China, and the virtual goods business is a $4 billion business. Most users are single children under 25, using social gaming as the way of getting companionship.
It’s the world’s first 3-D Internet social gaming platform. Completely integrates into other social networks, so is also distributed. The avatars can go anywhere across the web, and the application itself can be embedded in other social networks.
They are a social world similar to Second Life. It looks easier to bring the user into an immersive life than SL, however. And the selling of virtual items is huge!

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