Monday, March 31, 2008

10 start-up tips of Twitter founder Ev Williams

#1: Be Narrow
Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful. Most companies start out trying to do too many things, which makes life difficult and turns you into a me-too. Focusing on a small niche has so many advantages: With much less work, you can be the best at what you do. Small things, like a microscopic world, almost always turn out to be bigger than you think when you zoom in. You can much more easily position and market yourself when more focused. And when it comes to partnering, or being acquired, there's less chance for conflict. This is all so logical and, yet, there's a resistance to focusing. I think it comes from a fear of being trivial. Just remember: If you get to be #1 in your category, but your category is too small, then you can broaden your scope—and you can do so with leverage.

#2: Be Different
Ideas are in the air. There are lots of people thinking about—and probably working on—the same thing you are. And one of them is Google. Deal with it. How? First of all, realize that no sufficiently interesting space will be limited to one player. In a sense, competition actually is good—especially to legitimize new markets. Second, see #1—the specialist will almost always kick the generalist's ass. Third, consider doing something that's not so cutting edge. Many highly successful companies—the aforementioned big G being one—have thrived by taking on areas that everyone thought were done and redoing them right. Also? Get a good, non-generic name. Easier said than done, granted. But the most common mistake in naming is trying to be too descriptive, which leads to lots of hard-to-distinguish names. How many blogging companies have "blog" in their name, RSS companies "feed," or podcasting companies "pod" or "cast"? Rarely are they the ones that stand out.

#3: Be Casual
We're moving into what I call the era of the "Casual Web" (and casual content creation). This is much bigger than the hobbyist web or the professional web. Why? Because people have lives. And now, people with lives also have broadband. If you want to hit the really big home runs, create services that fit in with—and, indeed, help—people's everyday lives without requiring lots of commitment or identity change. Flickr enables personal publishing among millions of folks who would never consider themselves personal publishers—they're just sharing pictures with friends and family, a casual activity. Casual games are huge. Skype enables casual conversations.

#4: Be Picky
Another perennial business rule, and it applies to everything you do: features, employees, investors, partners, press opportunities. Startups are often too eager to accept people or ideas into their world. You can almost always afford to wait if something doesn't feel just right, and false negatives are usually better than false positives. One of Google's biggest strengths—and sources of frustration for outsiders—was their willingness to say no to opportunities, easy money, potential employees, and deals.

#5: Be User-Centric
User experience is everything. It always has been, but it's still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don't know user-centered design, study it. Hire people who know it. Obsess over it. Live and breathe it. Get your whole company on board. Better to iterate a hundred times to get the right feature right than to add a hundred more. The point of Ajax is that it can make a site more responsive, not that it's sexy. Tags can make things easier to find and classify, but maybe not in your application. The point of an API is so developers can add value for users, not to impress the geeks. Don't get sidetracked by technologies or the blog-worthiness of your next feature. Always focus on the user and all will be well.

#6: Be Self-Centered
Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world. Be a user of your own product. Hire people who are users of your product. Make it better based on your own desires. (But don't trick yourself into thinking you are your user, when it comes to usability.) Another aspect of this is to not get seduced into doing deals with big companies at the expense or your users or at the expense of making your product better. When you're small and they're big, it's hard to say no, but see #4.

#7: Be Greedy
It's always good to have options. One of the best ways to do that is to have income. While it's true that traffic is now again actually worth something, the give-everything-away-and-make-it-up-on-volume strategy stamps an expiration date on your company's ass. In other words, design something to charge for into your product and start taking money within 6 months (and do it with PayPal). Done right, charging money can actually accelerate growth, not impede it, because then you have something to fuel marketing costs with. More importantly, having money coming in the door puts you in a much more powerful position when it comes to your next round of funding or acquisition talks. In fact, consider whether you need to have a free version at all. The TypePad approach—taking the high-end position in the market—makes for a great business model in the right market. Less support. Less scalability concerns. Less abuse. And much higher margins.

#8: Be Tiny
It's standard web startup wisdom by now that with the substantially lower costs to starting something on the web, the difficulty of IPOs, and the willingness of the big guys to shell out for small teams doing innovative stuff, the most likely end game if you're successful is acquisition. Acquisitions are much easier if they're small. And small acquisitions are possible if valuations are kept low from the get go. And keeping valuations low is possible because it doesn't cost much to start something anymore (especially if you keep the scope narrow). Besides the obvious techniques, one way to do this is to use turnkey services to lower your overhead—Administaff, ServerBeach, web apps, maybe even Elance.

#9: Be Agile
You know that old saw about a plane flying from California to Hawaii being off course 99% of the time—but constantly correcting? The same is true of successful startups—except they may start out heading toward Alaska. Many dot-com bubble companies that died could have eventually been successful had they been able to adjust and change their plans instead of running as fast as they could until they burned out, based on their initial assumptions. Pyra was started to build a project-management app, not Blogger. Flickr's company was building a game. Ebay was going to sell auction software. Initial assumptions are almost always wrong. That's why the waterfall approach to building software is obsolete in favor agile techniques. The same philosophy should be applied to building a company.

#10: Be Balanced
What is a startup without bleary-eyed, junk-food-fueled, balls-to-the-wall days and sleepless, caffeine-fueled, relationship-stressing nights? Answer?: A lot more enjoyable place to work. Yes, high levels of commitment are crucial. And yes, crunch times come and sometimes require an inordinate, painful, apologies-to-the-SO amount of work. But it can't be all the time. Nature requires balance for health—as do the bodies and minds who work for you and, without which, your company will be worthless. There is no better way to maintain balance and lower your stress that I've found than David Allen's GTD process. Learn it. Live it. Make it a part of your company, and you'll have a secret weapon.

#11 (bonus!): Be Wary
Overgeneralized lists of business "rules" are not to be taken too literally. There are exceptions to everything.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

paper advertising plunge

The newspaper industry has experienced the worst drop in advertising revenue in more than 50 years.

According to new data released by the Newspaper Association of America, total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006 -- the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950.

The drop-off points to an economic slowdown on top of the secular challenges faced by the industry. The second worst decline in advertising revenue occurred in 2001 when it fell 9.0%.

Total advertising revenue in 2007 -- including online revenue -- decreased 7.9% to $45.3 billion compared to the prior year.

There are signs that online revenue is beginning to slow as well. Internet ad revenue in 2007 grew 18.8% to $3.2 billion compared to 2006. In 2006, online ad revenue had soared 31.4% to $2.6 billion. In 2005, it jumped 31.4% to $2 billion...

The NAA reported that online revenue now represents [a completely inadequate] 7.5% of total newspaper ad revenue in 2007 compared to 5.7% in 2006.

That growth could not stave off the losses in the print however. National print advertising revenue dropped 6.7% to $7 billion last year. Retail slipped 5% to $21 billion. Classified plunged 16.5% to $14.1 billion.

the art of "flacking"

via my all time favorite Found | Read

One of the biggest challenges for startups is keeping in the public eye – getting the word out on a consistent basis to drive an audience, customers, buzz, etc. There are lots of marketing techniques for startups but one that I think is under used and under appreciated is public relations.

Generally, PR is used to reach the mainstream press and a mainstream audience. (Reporters call this "flacking.") Anyway, a lot of startups don't (or can't) focus much energy (or resources) on PR – especially those living in a Web 2.0 bubble. If your startup is in the Valley or another true startup ecosystem, you may be able to generate sufficient buzz through the community, but for the rest of us, we need everything we can to keep in front of people, garnering attention.

The thing with PR is that it's not just for attracting mainstream press, although this is a good reason to use it. The press certainly looks at blogs, social media and less traditional avenues for its scoops, but they still work via press releases & press relationships as well. And even companies living in a Web 2.0 bubble – the ultra-coolest of the cool consumer apps only for the "Facebook crowd" – can still benefit from breaking into the mainstream. Ultimately that ultra-cool Valley crowd is still pretty small, and you'll need to break out beyond it for real success.

So what can PR bring a startup?

  • mainstream press
  • increased reputation as an expert
  • speaking engagements
  • analyst interest
  • writing opportunities
  • partnership opportunities
  • customers

And how do you get it?

A. Tell a Good Story: The key to PR (and it's the same with using social media and blogs) is that you need to tell a good story.

PR isn't simply about stating facts, or announcing straightforward news. It's about telling a good story to the right audience at the right time. A great press release is crafted to tell stories behind the words, to trigger ideas and possibilities in other people's heads, to indicate the direction your company is going without stating it explicitly.

Before publishing a press release, ask yourself, "What's the purpose of the press release?" Are you trying to reach potential partners, customers, mainstream press, investors, etc.? You can't target too many audiences at once, so really think about the type of press release you're writing and who will be interested in it.

The timing is important too. If you're attending an event, for example, publish a press release just before to get people's attention. It can lead to more buzz around the event. If you're going to release a new version of your product soon – think about staggering in some press releases beforehand – to build buzz.

And PR isn't just about posting press releases to the news wires. PR is about building relationships with your target audience (primarily mainstream press, analysts, but now also online press as well) to develop a strong reputation in your field of expertise. You want journalists coming to you asking for quotes, opinions, etc. — so that your press opportunities aren't exclusively for news about your startup, but also for industry trend stories that journalists are writing about.

B. Outsource PR
It doesn't have to be expensive, or consume a huge part of your marketing budget to work. It's an evolving process that should create a snowball effect — one press release lands you a couple press mentions, the next one a few more…then you're invited to speak somewhere, and then some partners come knocking…

And you certainly can and should do some of the PR yourself. First, every startup should have a company blog. A startup blog isn't used exclusively for PR, but it certainly can help.

Matt Hulett even suggests that you should fire your PR firm. He points out that the startup CEO should do the PR because s/he'll get better results:

Startups will get better results when a CEO takes the time to target a writer directly. There is so much noise that an authentic conversation from an executive does punch thru the sea of press releases being stuffed into inboxes by agencies.

I completely understand Matt's point, but most startup CEOs won't be schooled enough in good PR to pull this off. But consider hiring a contract PR person instead of an agency. Make it clear that you're hiring the person to execute on PR efforts but also to educate you (as the startup CEO) on doing some of the work yourself. Turn it into a collaborative effort.

C. Don't Forget PR

PR might be seen as blogging & social media's old cousin (and to a degree it is), but don't dismiss it too quickly. All the mentions on a handful of tech blogs might not be enough (although they're great!), especially when it's time to break out of those relatively closed circles and reach a much bigger audience. I found a Startup PR 2.0 ebook (for free!) from Brian Solis that might interest you.

Startups need every advantage they can get their hands on to stay top-of-mind with as many people as possible. And a good, constant (but still relatively small) PR effort can help.

Additional Note:
I just read a post on CenterNetworks about press embargoes from guest writer Rick Turoczy. Definitely worth reading.

Ben Yoskovitz is the founder of Standout Jobs, based in Montreal, Quebec Canada. Earlier Found|READ posts by or about Ben include: Presenting at DEMO: 12 Do's. 5 Don'ts; DEMO Went Great, Then "All Hell" Broke Loose; and 5 Tips for Maintaining Vision in the Day-to-Day. For even more, visit Ben's terrific Instigator Blog.

PR 2.0 Guidebook (as everything 2.0 it is FREE!!!)

via PR 2.0
PR for Startups Now Available as a Free ebook
I recently spoke at an SVASE StartUp University event in San Francisco to discuss PR and how startups can effectively leverage the right strategies, tools and tactics in order to gain visibility at every stage of their growth - without breaking the bank.

Early stage and bootstrapped startups must embrace DIY (Do it Yourself) or outsourced PR as their product reaches advanced alpha in order to build strategic visibility without losing precious time.

It all starts with answering a several important questions:

Who are your customers?
Where do they go for information?
What are they looking for?
Why would they need this product?
How can it help them do something they couldn't do before and better than anything else out there?
What will be the most compelling things to convince them to give it a shot?
How can you tell your story in a way that matters to the people you're trying to reach without speaking "at" them?

PR is not an afterthought.

You need PR to help you carry your product or service to the very people who will help your company grow.

Simply relying on features and word of mouth simply isn't going to cut it. This is a real world and the reality is that customers aren't looking for you. You have to compete for mindshare. Those companies who don't proactively tell their story will find themselves missing from the radar screens of their customers while their competition earns their business - regardless of whether or not it's an inferior solution.

In order to be successful in Public Relations, you need to grasp what it is, what it isn't, and how it works and why. Otherwise, you'll never be able to build the right team, determine the best strategies to amplify visibility and gain traction, or have the ability to effectively measure it.

I've created an ebook for startups and VCs based on a previous post to help steer them in the right direction on the road to visibility, attention, and resonance. It will go through several revisions in the future, but at the moment, it's a great place to start.

Table of Contents:

1. Understand what PR is and isn't.
2. Don't under value PR.
3. PR is not a switch.
4. Initial and consistent coverage takes time.
5. Get a spokesperson.
6. PR is not the only tool in the shed.
7. PR at the Head, Across Chasms, and in the Long Tail.
8. Engage in social media.
9. Support and reward your PR program.
10. Keep good people.
11. Keep an open line of communication.
12. Establish realistic metrics.
13. Do not launch your company or product at a conference.
14. Do not start contacting people on your own.
15. Breaking News.
16. PR and Social Media Enable a new form of outbound customer service.
17. PR isn't charity.
18. You're not the only company with a great story.

Download as a Word Doc.

Download as a PDF.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

product of advertising-driven economy

NeuroFocus, Inc. is an innovative company applying the latest advances in neuroscience to the world of advertising and messaging. Neurofocus leverages a rapidly growing body of research and insights into how the human brain processes stimuli like ads, messages, and products. We are able to track millisecond-by-millisecond brain responses to messaging.

Our breakthrough techniques utilize advances in measuring attention challenges, emotional engagement, and memory/retention to measure the effectiveness of advertising. Our measurements are precise, unambiguous, and repeatable. The measurement method is established EEG technology, which is simple, non-invasive, non-influential, and comfortable to consumers.

Monday, March 24, 2008

on free trade and wages

via pmarca blog copyright Bradford DeLong
...To what extent are rich countries obligated to open their markets to poor countries when the consequence is falling wages for the poor in the rich--bearing in mind that the poor in the rich are often wealthier and have more opporunity than the rich in the poor? To what extent do rich countries do themselves well--serve their national interest--by opening their markets to poor countries even when the consequence is falling wages for the poor in the rich?
...First, between 1950 and 1997 trade and wages weren't an issue: our foreign trading partners raised their own relative wage levels at least as fast as globalization enhanced their influence, and there was no net effect of trade on wages--no link from greater openness to the global economy to greater inequality here at home.
Second, at times between 1950 and 1997 trade and wages became a political issue as a way of distracting attention from true problems. The voters of Michigan in 1985 did not want to hear that the problems of Michigan's manufacturing industries were home-grown--in the fecklessness of management and in the Reagan administration's budget deficits that pushed up interest rates which pushed up the value of the dollar and made the goods they made uncompetitive on world markets. They wanted, instead, to hear that the Japanese were doing something clever and illegitimate [certainly a widespread assumption in Wisconsin when I was growing up in the 1980's -Marc].
Third: since 1997 or so the link between expanded imports and wage inequality has become real, as our imports now embody a much larger amount of factors competing with our own lesser-skilled than they used to. How large? I don't think we know. Paul Krugman [also a non-conservative -Marc] is now writing a paper for the Brookings Institution in which he essentially throws up his hands at the question.
But there are two points worth noting: (a) the effects of trade on pre-tax wage inequality are much smaller than the effects over the past generation of changes in the tax system on after-tax income inequality; (b) the effects of trade on inequality of opportunity are much less than the effects of educational inequities on inequality of opportunity.
Fourth, to the extent that we in the United States begin thinking of trade restrictions as a way to fight inequality, we are setting ourselves up for extraordinary trouble late in this century--extraordinary damage to our long-run national security.
Think of it this way: Consider a world that contains one country that is a true superpower. It is preeminent--economically, technologically, politically, culturally, and militarily. But it lies at the east edge of a vast ocean. And across the ocean is another country--a country with more resources in the long-run, a country that looks likely to in the end supplant the current superpower. What should the superpower's long-run national security strategy be?
I think the answer is clear: if possible, the current superpower should embrace its possible successor. It should bind it as closely as possible with ties of blood, commerce, and culture--so that should the emerging superpower come to its full strength, it will to as great an extent possible share the world view of and regard itself as part of the same civilization as its predecessor: Romans to their Greeks.
In 1877, the rising superpower to the west across the ocean was the United States. The preeminent superpower was Britain. Today the preeminent superpower is the United States. The rising superpower to the west across the ocean is China. that was the rising superpower across the ocean to the west of the world's industrial and military leader. Today it is China.
Throughout the twentieth century it has been greatly to Britain's economic benefit that America has regarded it as a trading partner--a source of opportunities--rather than a politico-military-industrial competitor to be isolated and squashed. And in 1917 and again in 1941 it was to Britain's immeasurable benefit--its veruy soul was on the line--that America regarded it as a friend and an ally rather than as a competitor and an enemy. A world run by those whom de Gaulle called les Anglo-Saxons is a much more comfortable world for Britain than the other possibility--the world in which Europe were run by Adolf Hitler's Saxon-Saxons.

There is a good chance that China is now on the same path to world preeminence that America walked 130 years ago. Come 2047 and again in 2071 and in the years after 2075, America is going to need China. There is nothing more dangerous for America's future national security, nothing more destructive to America's future prosperity, than for Chinese schoolchildren to be taught in 2047 and 2071 and in the years after 2075 that America tried to keep the Chinese as poor as possible for as long as possible.

China Mobile Content Services Booming; Content Sales And Digital Ad Revs To Hit $710 Million By 2013

via moconews
By Dianne See Morrison - Sun 23 Mar 2008 01:57 PM PST

China Mobile's has been on a growth streak for some time. IDG News reports the country's largest operator--and indeed the world's--China Mobile grew by 68.1 million new subscribers last year--about three times the number of T-Mobile USA subscribers, and about 14 million more than Sprint (NYSE: S) Nextel. And subs are growing strong, rising 22.6 percent year-over-year, boosted by growth in rural areas. As of the end of January, China Mobile now has a total of 376.38 million mobile users. Even more interesting: content usage is booming. Last year, China Mobile subscribers sent 502.7 billion SMS messages, up 42.3 percent from 2006. The number of subscribers to its mobile music service rose to 66.88 million, growing nearly four-fold from its 2006 base of 16.13 million. Paid for subscriptions to its mobile news service climbed to 23.55 million, adding 18.05 million users, while its instant messaging software for PCs and mobiles Fetion ended 2007 with 73.26 million users, adding 67 million from last year. China Mobile said it will start 3G services in time for this year's Olympics being held in Beijing. It also plans to invest 127.2 billion renminbi ($18.04 billion) into the company.

In separate, but related news, more than 30 percent of mobile phone subscribers in China will read books and newspapers on their handsets in the next five years, reports Xinhua News, citing a joint study from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Shanghai Jiaotong University entitled China's Cultural Industry 2008. The report said by the same time, it expected 90 percent of China's newspapers to have a digital edition and noted that digital publishing had "enormous potential." In 2007, it found that the number of people accessing the internet through their mobiles totalled 45 million, over double the figure from the year before. It also forecast that sales from digital content services and ads would hit 5 billion yuan ($710 million) by 2013.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The future is Web Services

Remember The Graduate when Benjamin Braddock was advised to go into plastics. The clip is here. It seemed like a safe bet at the time - and it was.

Today the web maybe "the new plastics." It seems like every brand is building a new site or microsite. The Internet feels like Dubai. Some are big, ambitious projects. Others are smaller initiatives like a blog that a small group can manage themselves.

I don't expect organizations to stop building sites anytime soon. However, the Picture-in-Picture Web (what some would call the web services promise of "Web 3.0") is coming on strong. And I believe most brand web sites may not matter in 2012 - unless they have satellites that make the mother ship stronger. The Attention Crash (or what Iconoculture calls "choice fatigue") is accelerating the pace of change. Fred Wilson has a similar point of view.

The leading players on the web all see the train coming. They are wisely creating APIs and turning themselves into plug-and-play services, not just big destinations. YouTube is just the latest to do so today. Amazon has S3. Google has OpenSocial and an extensive library of APIs. As does Microsoft. Facebook is allowing its applications to live outside the site. Twitter is an API first and (eventually) a business model second. Finally, the booming widget economy shows the promise of small content that can go anywhere.

These are the leaders. But everyone - including marketers - will need to think of their online brands not as sites but as portable services that can go anywhere and everywhere the consumer wants. Without such appendages, no brand will ever be able to break through the online clutter such unlimited choice offers.

Monday, March 17, 2008

a dusk of mobile gaming?

via Moconews

Glu Mobile In A Sticky Spot
By Dianne See Morrison - Fri 14 Mar 2008 05:05 AM PST
Bad news for Glu Mobile (NSDQ: GLUU) and for the mobile gaming industry.. AP reports that Deutsche Bank analyst Jonathan Goldberg downgraded the mobile game publishers stock to "sell" from "hold," citing a slowdown in mobile gaming spending," as well as a sharp rise in licensing costs for the mobile rights to popular content. Glu's shares fell 8.2 percent Thursday. Mobile games slumped last year, with many in the industry--including Nokia--blaming operators for taking their inv*stm*nt elsewhere. Mobile games publishers like Glu who strike licensing deals with popular brands are being squeezed by content owners and game developers who are demanding higher and higher rights fees for their games. Goldberg said it was not unusual for deals to hit $2 million plus royalties for a particularly popular game—though he noted Glu hasn't yet had to pay this kind of money. But the trend for these type of deals is definitely putting a crimp on Glu's margins. Meanwhile, Glu announced Wednesday it had extended its deal with 2waytraffic to develop and publish the very popular mobile game version of hit TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

sometimes can be useful

Digital Outlook Report by Avenue A Razorfish

a [very good] executive summary of the report is on Kawassaki's blog here

Mobile Advertising Forecasts All Over The Map From $11-$250 Billion

via Moconews
By Tricia Duryee - Sun 02 Mar 2008 05:55 PM PST

Advertising is the next big opportunity in mobile—by some estimates released this week, it will be a burgeoning $250 billion industry within two years, but other more conservative estimates predict it to fall between $11 billion and $20 billion in the next three years. So, which is it?

This week's outrageous projection—$250 billion by 2010—came from the GSM Association, which believes that an initiative that Vodafone (NYSE: VOD), O2, T-Mobile, and 3 are working on, could make it as easy for advertisers to run campaigns on mobiles as it is on TV or in print. The results were reported in Mobile Entertainment.

Criticisms came fast. Chetan Sharma, who co-authored the book "Mobile Advertising: Supercharge your brand in the exploding wireless market" said in his blog: "I have seen ridiculous projections before but this has to top everything we have seen before and then some more." In an October cover story in the Economist that hailed mobile phones as a marketers' promised land, still said mobile advertising is only a tiny business. In 2006, $871 million was spent on mobile ads worldwide, according to Informa Telecoms & Media, and the most bullish forecasted between $11.4 to $20 billion by 2011.

The GSMA said the industry will be large because of all the great things about mobile that we've all heard before—it's a personal device that people carry with them always; and it can provide behavioral statistics on consumers; and therefore it can provide more targeted ads. The article points out that the carriers are doing this as a defensive move against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and others. Their aim is to build a system that's as quick and painless as online, while still reaching millions of consumers.

So, the question is, will the carriers be able to pull it off? In Sharma's first chapter, he points out what the wireless industry is up against: "The challenge is that the market is too nascent to make simple linear projections and assumptions. We must be mindful of the difference between emerging and steady state markets when building our business strategies."

UPDATE: When numbers are this outrageous, they usually aren't true, and that turns out to be the case in this instance. First off, the figures were discussed last month at Mobile World Congress by consultancy STL Partners, not the GSMA. STL's CEO Simon Torrance cleared up the inaccuracies. In 2010, mobile advertising was not projected to hit $250 billion. Rather, he said in 2017, a wide range of fixed and mobile telecom services will be worth $250 billion in Western Europe and North America. He said the global advertising market will total $533 billion; and of that, a small portion—$62 billion—will be going to online and mobile ads. That projection is much closer and in line with other mobile-advertising projections. For more information, Torrance elaborated on his blog here.


few great start-up quotes

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we might oft win, by fearing to attempt."
- Shakespeare

"If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse."
- Henry Ford

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
- Winston Churchill

"The difference between genius and insanity is measured only by success."
- Eliot Carver

"If you're going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big."
- Donald Trump

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
- Albert Einstein

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
- Robert Frost

"The wall is there for you to show how bad you want it."
- Randy Pausch

"Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!"
- Andrew Carnegie

"Go the extra mile. It's never crowded."
- somebody

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"Do Something Small Useful Now."
- Bob Bemer, inventor of ASCII

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
- Paulo Coelho

"You cannot hide two things: 1. Talent 2. Itching"
- unknown

Thursday, March 13, 2008

some insights on angel investing

David Rose, the founder of New York Angels and Angelsoft, a software application that helps angel investing groups manage plans received by entrepreneurs, gives some great info on angels and angel investing.
[...] some highlights:
* There are 600K new companies started each year.
* Of those 350K are self-funded, 200K are funded by friends and family, 50K by Angel investors, and a mere 1200 by venture capitalists.
* The average angle has spent 9 years investing, had done 10 investments, had 2 exits (profitable or lost their money), and 10% of their wealth is tied up in angel investments.
* Angels look for companies with Scalable Business Models, an "Unfair Advantage," Great Entrepreneur, External Validation, Low Investment Requirement, Reasonable Valuation ($1 to $3 million pre-money range), and a 20 to 30 times return on their investment within 5 to 7 years.
* The single most important characteristic an Angel investor looks for in an entrepreneur is Integrity. Then they look for Passion, Experience, Knowledge, Skill, Leadership, Commitment, Vision, Realism, and Coachability.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mobile Ads Getting High Response Rates: Report

via MocoNews
The Nielsen report said 23 percent of U.S. subscribers, or 58 million people were exposed to mobile advertising on their phones in the past 30 days, and that half, or about 28 million of all data users who recall seeing mobile advertising in the previous 30 days, said they responded to the ad in some way. The findings come from Nielsen Mobile's Mobile Advertising Report and are based on a survey of more than 22,000 active mobile data users who used at least one non-voice mobile service the last three months of 2007. Release.

Here are some other findings:

-- Teen data users (ages 13-17) were the most likely age segment to recall seeing mobile ads. Asian-Americans and African-Americans are more likely to recall mobile advertising at 42 percent and 40 percent respectively than all data users.

-26 percent of those who saw an ad responded at least once by sending an SMS text-message, the most popular ad response.

-- 9 percent said they have used click-to-call to respond to a mobile ad, where users follow a link on their phone to call a specific number.

-- 32 percent of data users said they are open to mobile advertising if it lowers their overall bill; 13 percent said they are open to mobile advertising if it improves content; 14 percent said they are open to mobile advertising as long as it's relevant; and 23 percent expect to see more mobile advertising in the future.

Voice to text - the new big thing?

via Moconews

Voice To Text Mobile Firm SpinVox Eyeing Float Again
By Dianne See Morrison - Tue 11 Mar 2008 05:33 AM PST

Never mind the weak financial markets. SpinVox, the mobile phone firm that turns voicemails into text, is reportedly considering floating the company again. The five-year old company, which operates in 7 countries and claims it will reach 30 million customers this year, has appointed Goldman Sachs to help it raise financing that could put a GBP 200 million ($402.4 million) price tag on the firm. The company has been itching to float for a few years now, with the founders apparently eyeing up the success of its American rival Nuance
Communications, which is listed on Nasdaq with a market value of around $3.6 billion. SpinVox initially considered taking the company public in 2006, but couldn't drum up enough interest. Following its deal with Alltel (NYSE: AT) last August to supply its products to the operators 12 million users it said it would try again. The has done a little digging at Companies House which revealed that sales were only GBP 436,000 ($876,734) in 2006. It expects, however, for sales to boom, reaching GBP 40 million ($80.4 million) in 2008 to GBP 100 million ($201 million) in 2009, after signing on 12 additional operators to carry their product this year.

and here is what wrote here

Spinvox advisers look into flotation

SPINVOX, the mobile-phone technology firm that converts voicemails into text messages, has appointed advisers to weigh up fundraising options that include a stock-market flotation.

Goldman Sachs will help it raise new finance that could value the business at approaching £200m.

Founded in 2003, Spinvox is expected to reach 30m customers this year, and is already operating in seven countries, including Canada and Australia.

"We are doing what every fast-growing business does," said co-founder Christina Domecq, a scion of the Spanish sherry dynasty. "We have all the options in front of us, whether that is a float or something else."

Domecq and co-founder Daniel Doulton, descended from the pottery family, together own just under half of the business.

Its last set of figures filed at Companies House show that sales were only £436,000 in 2006, up 78% from the preceding 17 months. Pretax losses stepped up from £5.8m to £10.7m because of increased research spending.

However, the business is forecasting a sharp upturn in sales, from £40m in 2008 to £100m in 2009, after doubling the number of mobile-phone carrier partners it has from 12 to 24 this year.

Domecq wants to emulate the success of Nuance Communications, a Nasdaq-listed firm worth $3.6 billion (£1.8 billion) whose speech-recognition technology is used in corporate IT departments and voice-activated satnav.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rutberg & Co Research on mobile internet

via Rutberg & Co Newsletter. To subscribe email to
A debate topic during our meetings at MWC was the degree to which substantial new companies will emerge from the mobile Internet, similar to the emergence of Hotmail, Google, Skype, and Facebook in the PC Internet.  All of the carrier and vendor executives in our conversations viewed that the Internet incumbents were best positioned for the mobile Internet (we were surprised by the unanimity of opinion in this).  Rationale included: 1) consumer familiarity with known brands, 2) scale of Internet incumbent traffic and users, 3) challenges in mobile Internet customer acquisition and usage, and 4) vision that mobile is not a "different" or "second" Internet but rather a part of a new multi-platform environment.


We disagree with this perspective.  In our view, in the short-term, we believe there are "two Internets," such that meaningful new mobile Internet players are getting created and built.  The evidence for this thesis is limited, so the argument is inherently difficult to substantiate.  Early indicators for us include the growth of new mobile Internet players (with traffic as great as 1 billion views per month), as well as the meaningfulness of difference in even incumbents' mobile and online presentations.  A specific metric to monitor will be the number and valuations of mobile Internet exits, if any, of $500MM+ over the next three to four years.  Again, evidence is early, but we anticipate several.


Separately, over the medium- and long-term, we agree that there is "one Internet", across the multiple platforms.  However, we have a different take on that Internet.  Today, the predominant use case for the Internet is fixed, i.e. sitting in front of a desktop or notebook.  In the future, we believe that that will be the minority use case.  Rather, the majority use case will be regular interactions throughout the day with mobile and other platforms.  Over the long-term, there is "one Internet", but we believe it has fundamentally different experiences and capabilities than those of the Internet today.

Monday, March 10, 2008

starting up righ tips of guys

via Found&Read
full blog post is here
my favorites are here (despite they are not at the top of David's list):
5) Don't forget to set goals, early and often. Think about small: "Today I will write a blog entry and buy that printer we need so badly," and large: "This month we're going to wrap up the beta site by finishing the design pieces, sending out test-user invitations and incorporating in feedback." It was easy for me to get lost in whatever was at hand and forget about the larger picture. Benchmarks should exist in your business plan (set them, you'll do it sooner or later), within your team and in your weekly activities.

6) I didn't back up all of my information.
My hardware crashed and I lost contacts I'll never get back. My laptop's screen died about six months after starting the business. It was stressful. At tax time I realized that I couldn't only get nine months of statements from my bank, the rest cost $10 a pop. Moral of the story, back it up, back it up, back it up!

7) Don't moonlight.
For the first 6 months of MakeMeSustainable, I was still working a consulting job. I'd go directly from work to the coffee shop to work until midnight when it closed. I didn't have much of choice, financially it wasn't an option to go full time. However, once I was full time, I was still working 80+ hours per week. What ended up suffering was my efficiency and attention to detail. Plain and simple advice: take a break, relax. You'll still be working more then your buddy who works at the post office, but make it on your terms. I turn off my PDA email after around 9pm unless I know I'm receiving important information and I try to have one day of the week I do (almost) no work.

8) Don't neglect Quickbooks.
I know it is a pain in the butt. Have someone teach you, pay for a few lessons or ideally bring in a bookkeeper and sit with them in order to learn. You'll thank yourself at tax time. I went through two versions of the company in Quickbooks before getting it right on the third time.

9) Don't cut off your funding options.
VC vs. Angel vs. Corporate/Strategic?
Fundraising is the bane of every entrepreneur's existence. It is stressful, takes up mountains of time and requires amazing amounts of patience, attentiveness and humility. Everyone's opinion on how to do it right is based on personal experience, success and/or failure. It is important to keep your options open.We got great advice, but focused quickly on raising an A round with a reputable VC and slowed the Angel search. We still haven't raised that A round. But we might.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

free changes everything

In 1954, at the dawn of nuclear power, Lewis Strauss, head of the Atomic Energy Commission, promised that we were entering an age when electricity would be "too cheap to meter." Needless to say, that didn't happen, mostly because the risks of nuclear energy hugely increased its costs. But what if he'd been right? What if electricity had in fact become virtually free?The answer is that everything electricity touched — which is to say just about everything — would have been transformed. Rather than balance electricity against other energy sources, we'd use electricity for as many things as we could — we'd waste it, in fact, because it would be too cheap to worry about.

All buildings would be electrically heated, never mind the thermal conversion rate. We'd all be driving electric cars (free electricity would be incentive enough to develop the efficient battery technology to store it). Massive desalination plants would turn seawater into all the freshwater anyone could want, irrigating vast inland swaths and turning deserts into fertile acres, many of them making biofuels as a cheaper store of energy than batteries. Relative to free electrons, fossil fuels would be seen as ludicrously expensive and dirty, and so carbon emissions would plummet. The phrase "global warming" would have never entered the language.

Today it's digital technologies, not electricity, that have become too cheap to meter. It took decades to shake off the assumption that computing was supposed to be rationed for the few, and we're only now starting to liberate bandwidth and storage from the same poverty of imagination. But a generation raised on the free Web is coming of age, and they will find entirely new ways to embrace waste, transforming the world in the process. Because free is what you want — and free, increasingly, is what you're going to get.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Truth About Asset Management

Over the 25 years from 1980 to 2005, the S&P 500 index returned an average of 12.3% a year. Over the same period, the average equity mutual fund returned 10% and the average mutual-fund investor (thanks to his regrettable tendency to buy the hottest funds at the top of the market) earned just 7.3%, five percentage points below the index.
read the full article on

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Dangers of a Startup Democracy

via my favorite Found&Read

Back in January 2007 while taking a shower I thought up the idea of my startup. ;)
I'm a business major, but I can't write a single line of code. I knew I'd also need someone I to help with marketing and administrative parts and since my budget was nearly nonexistent, these would have to be people I could trust, and who'd be willing to take sweat equity. I started talking to a few of my friends. It was my 1st mistake.

Two of them were already working at other jobs, but I was not willing to spend our tight budget on salaries from day one. I figured I could get their attention by offering to split the company between us. Three of them accepted: two were really close friends from high school who had worked together previously on a few websites. The third is a university classmate who I figured would help me with my workload. This is where I made my 2nd mistake.

I was able to convince each person to come work with me on the startup in exchange for 24% of the company. I like involving people in the things I do (2 heads are better than 1!) so at first I was OK with our "28%, 24%, 24%, 24%"-agreement. I thought I had listened to the right people… so off we went! This is where I made my 3rd mistake.

By June/July we were working in the garage of one of our cofounders. Within a few months we were facing some challenges. We got along great, but I felt that I was unable to have a strong enough voice in any part of the decisions, even though I was the father of the idea! My word was not carrying enough weight in part because of my own inexperience, which me feel that everyone knew better than me. So this is when I started to get really paranoid. (Paranoia usually comes into effect when someone starts feeling uncomfortable or insecure).

About the same time a friend at a VC firm introduced me to a new mentor: a 30-year-old with vast internet experience, but most importantly a guy who had "been around the block" and with whom I could really relate on my many levels. One day I spoke with my mentor about how the company was divided up. He immediately started to ask me the type of questions that make you think.

I realized the mistake I had made when dividing the company — I had started a democracy. I began to understand that this conflict could mean my idea might die before it even got off the ground! I feared that if I them of my concerns, my friends/co-founders would flip out and I might lose their friendship. But I understood that I myself was the one that had to feel the most comfortable, or the project would not survive.

After much thought, I presented my teammates with the idea that I was not comfortable with how the company had been divided and that the situation made it difficult for me to impose my wishes on this project. Without a doubt, this confrontation was the hardest issue I had dealt with in my life. I was extremely distraught and even a month later I could not eat or sleep well, not to mention work well.

To make a long story short, we lost one of our co-founders and I lost one of my best friends — a guy whom I counted on when my father passed away, my wingman for the nightclubs. In less than a year I went from promising him that we would "make it" to not even talking to him. Maybe this all a bit overboard but I finally understand that an entrepreneur's emotions' are a rollercoaster ride.

I made several mistakes in my decisions about how to build my team of startup founders. But this is what life is about, learning about your past mistakes so that they don't get repeated.

As a fellow entrepreneur just remember the following:

1. Stay away from working with friends.
I cannot stress how big of a mistake this is!!! I know that everyone says this but I did it and assume that others might be tempted to but DO NOT! Even though you share everything with them and feel extremely comfortable, you can always go to them for advice but remember that companies will come and go, your friends will always have your back.
2. Get advice from everyone, don't only listen to a family friend,
ask a teacher, as a fellow worker, ask your dog but do not go with only one piece of advice.
3. Surround yourself with people who have been around the block like I did with my first mentor, we were able to bond and speak frankly; if it had not been for his questioning I have no idea where I would be today. Always ask them questions!
4. Do not let things drag on, if you feel uncomfortable with a decision that even you yourself made, talk about it with your co-founder immediately and see how things can be resolved.
5. As the primary founder you better have an authoritarian role in the start-up process,
this might sound harsh but if you had the idea of the project, then you are the one that should take the final decisions but of course ALWAYS take into consideration what your teammates have told you (this is one of the reasons why working with friends is hard… it is not the easiest to disagree with them)!

Nathan Schorr is the founder of Blahsports, a social content network focused on sports.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Third of mobile games 'fail' to work

Third of mobile games 'fail' to work


According to mobile application developer GetJar, one third of mobile games paid for and downloaded by UK users fail to work or have compatibility issues.

The bad news is supported by the fact that more than £29 million is spent each year on UK games that are never actually played because of problems.

Insufficient compatibility testing was blamed for the problems by GetJar and said the problem was likely to get worse unless developers put a greater focus on compatibility.

The report also found that just 15 per cent of gamers said their purchased games never failed.

Ilja Laurs, founder and chief executive of GetJar, said that many people surveyed blamed themselves for any problems and often did not pursue a compatibility issue, while the cost involved in correcting an issue often was more than the actual purchase price.

Research group GfK suggested the UK mobile gaming market was worth £83 million in 2006-07.