Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thank You Starbuck's! - The Best Return on Giving Up My Personal Info

In case you hadn't herd, for the price of "registering" a Starbuck's gift card you get 2 hours of free wifi a day - AND - FREE refills of drip coffee!!!!!!!!!
Those that know me, also know my undying commitment to daily coffee, from Starbuck's. Why, it seems like they made this deal just for me!
Everyday starts with a Venti drip. I used to have to pay 54 cents for my refill and $20 a month with T-mobile for wifi.
Now I get to save those dollars or use them to pay for gas. But I gotta just ask, is there a better deal out there?
Everyday I get a window view from my office @ a Starbuck's, get to enjoy a good cup of coffee, and surf the web for free!
Thanks Starbuck's, but you really didn't have to do this, you had me at hello :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Social Network Application Police

Yesterday Myspace announced some changes to limit how "apps" could push virally across a users network. MySpace founder Tom made a rare post regarding these changes on his blog - here. This is similar to the changes Facebook implemented last year in an attempt to limit application developers from creating environments where users are basically creating spam on behalf of the developers/applications.

The new rules include:
  • No incentives may be given to a member for sending a message, bulletin, comment, or any other form of communication. This includes “points,” “bucks,” increased standing, or even features within the app.
  • It must be very clear to a member what they are sending, when they are sending communication. “Share with friends” is not sufficient messaging, the link must state “send comment,” “send bulletin,” and so on.
  • The “no popups” rule we have had in place since day one applies to messaging windows. This means no more popping up a messaging window the first time someone tries to use an app. No popping up messaging windows without a user clicking on a very clearly marked link.
Overall this is good news for users and levels the playing field a little for developers. But I know a few users of popular apps that won't like it too much. They may not be in the vocal majority but I've heard from many that are enjoying the popular "Own Your Friends" app that part of the fun of the game is amassing $$$ by getting friends to download the app (the more money you have the more friends you get to "own"). So I am left wondering if there is a place in between, can we build a social application rule-set that enables this kind of use case without "harming the network?

Its unclear how MySpace will administer these changes. Do they expect the network (users) to police the app's and flag them or will they review each app individually? I've posted this queery and will update as soon as I hear......

Friday, May 9, 2008

First Myspace, Then Facebook, Now Google Announces "Friend Connect"

One of the big bugaboos with social networking sites has been the difficulty of you getting your data out and into another site. That's all changing now that the big 3 (not Ford, Chevy and Chrysler) have announced in the last week new services to give users the ability to "control" their data.

TechCrunch says that Friend Connect will launch Monday "which will be a set of APIs for Open Social participants to pull profile information from social networks into third party websites". This comes on the heels of Myspace announcing on Thursday called Data Availability and Facebook announced Facebook Connect.

This has huge ramifications to both the marketplace and the developer community. As a developer of Open Social Applications (see mediapops on Myspace here) this solves a huge issue on how to extend the social application experience. We are working on a few new apps that will significantly benefit from this new API.

For users I am interested to see how much they take from the walled gardens and share data to other sites. While I think this is very different from Facebook's failed "Beacon" ad model, there will undoubtedly be folks trying to take advantage of users data.

Whats really cool is that this follows the normal model of the Social Web, nothing stays in one place, it is shared, annotated, modified and more by an ever growing network. Your social universe just expanded......

Building a Web Startup Company Today

I get the opportunity to work with and consult many companies about developing new business units and new companies in this web 2.0 space. Plus I have 3 of my own startups that I have launched or are in development currently to draw from. I find that so many of the questions and issues are common that it donned on me to do my own "list" of core components to creating a good web company today. I hope that you find some value in it and if you think I've missed anything, tell me, I really want to know!

1. Answer the question - What makes you social? If the answer is nothing, or if you are grasping at straws, that's OK. But know the answer, you can't fake it. Now why do I start here? Because we are in the midst of the Social Web transformation, its the train that's left the station, you need to know if you can ride it, or not. I think your business plan should devote several pages to this topic. If you don't have a social network account, you are in trouble because you have alot of catching up to do:)

If you are wondering what do I mean, try to look at your product or service as an organic thing and consider how it would look when touched, commented, shared or even modified by the market. Think about the possible touch-points and recognize that in the social web you are not fully in control. Stand back, does your product/service stand up in this medium? Is it better? If you answer yes, then you can exploit the social web to grow your company.

2. Rapid Deployment: you will never build the perfect mousetrap, I don't care if you are crazy smart and have all the money in the world in your hands, someone will beat you with a really good mousetrap that connects with the market and leaves you in their dust. Build, launch, tweak and repeat.

3. What's your PROMISE? At some core point your product/service/company makes a promise to its users. What's yours? In my opinion this is your only real currency with your customers. Recently in speaking with a good friend about her new venture where her primary value will be based upon her ability to build a strong connection with her customers. I pushed her to define and make her promise to her customers and put it right out there in front of them. You want to build a relationship with your user base? Make a promise, keep it, and watch that relationship flourish.

4. Fall in Love with Revenue: You can never have too many revenue sources. I am not a big believer in online advertising as the single means to a successful new web startup. I love it that Google has made it so easy to create revenue streams for a web co, but its simply not enough for 98% of the new companies. Now this exercise is really hard, all of us are trying to figure it out, but I propose that if you don't you are dead out of the gate.

5. Partner Well: Find strategic partnerships, figure out other companies trying to grow that you can help and in turn help yourself. But here's the catch, be very careful. A bad partnership can ruin you, be decisive about exactly what you want to accomplish and be willing to walk away.

6. Believe. Make sure you truly believe in what you are doing, it just isn't easy to win at this game, so if you don't believe in yourself/product/team it probably won't work anyway. Start and end the day by affirming your belief in your company, show your customers and investors and team mates that you are completely sure about your path. Being honest with yourself is probably the most important aspect to being an entrepreneur, don't BS yourself. If it isn't good enough for you to believe in, get it there or get out!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Harnessing the Power of the Social Web

Yesterday I read a great post that made connections between historical disruptive periods and the social web and took a look at both the driving force and transforming period before the force developed significant value.

Its definitely worth a read, but in summary, Clay Shirky describes the period of transformation from rural life to urban during the industrial revolution and the collective struggle. He states that it wasn't until the creation of key public services, museums, libraries and expanded education for children - services that were unnecessary prior to this transformation - that opportunity was realized.

Clay then suggests that the sitcom, a staple of TV since the second World War was the "social lubricant" as "the critical technology of the 20th Century. Now before you dismiss this consider his point, that following the war and the shift in our economic system of 9-5 jobs etc... that there was a new surplus of free time. True enough we have used this free time to consume ever larger amounts of TV (and all other media too) and while TV has created both great entertainment l
ike Seinfeld as well as not so great reality shows like Tila Tequila - Shot at Love, it has also driven the standard of living, democratizing the access to information (24 hour News), and social issue commentary. I'd take it step further that TV also helped the US establish a definable economy and obviously our brand model. There would be no Tide without TV, no Wal-Marts either.

The punch line for the post is that we are on the verge of another big transformation due to the Social Web, that we are moving beyond the "gin-carts" of the industrial revolution and the post war sitcom's.

You might guess that I think he's right. Yeah sure we'll still have all the crackerjack aspects of the Social Web, the hot or not's and the like, but there are real opportunities for the world. Look at the number of charities that have grown, the green movement advancement, and more through the social web already. Look at the access to information, and our ability to participate, Digg and Wikipedia are great examples.

What direction does this go? Who knows for sure, but I'm excited to see where!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Startup 2.0, Examination of the Transformation

This is a repost of my introductory post on


Part 1:

When did this begin? At what point did the shift occur?

Does it matter?

No, it only matters that we recognize it, try to understand the transformation and to see where it's going.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the new garage startup, call it Startup 2.0 (or 3.0, 7.0, the number doesn't really matter just the recognition that its all changed), where companies/products/services are built in weekends, brands are built through social networks, viral isn't enough, software is free, music is almost free, the list goes on.

Startup 2.0 still requires great imagination and inspiration but it rewards execution much more than 1.0 in my opinion. Companies that can think AND act in the same sentence achieve success while the plodders simply get left behind. I'm sorry but I think the "turtle" model is DOA, at least from a startup perspective.

Its important to note that what changed was the not just the entrepreneurs but the market itself. The combination of low cost highly accessible data storage, ubiquitous net access and a philosophic transformation: that users would create and share content - created this new market. Now the user became ultimately important and who you are and who your friends are matters. What you create has a new value. Maybe more importantly users are willing to create for the fame more than the fortune even if that fame is relatively small and short lived. Call it "social celebrity", a new kind of status that can achieve above the "D-List" but rarely reach it, but that's OK. New web services grew to take advantage of this content and make it easy to show, share and comment - and the Social Web was born.

The Social Web is the most significant transformation in the last decade of the web other than the rise of Google. I think the Social Web would not have grown without Google, creating instant revenue streams to Social Networks, Blogs, and Web based Apps, regardless we are now living in the midst of the Social Web revolution. Companies no matter how large or small must take notice or watch their competition leave them behind.

This movement has created a market where platforms were developed (Facebook, Myspace, Open Social) to support the users and the new behaviors. These platforms created new markets for entrepreneurs and bleeding edge companies to create highly niche viral services and create large user bases. The question still remains if companies can monetize these users but the barrier to entry has been reduced drastically, you can now develop services that scale and can grow with extremely small budgets. Again the key is create/execute here.

New models have been launched to leverage this new paradigm, YCombinator should be looked at closely by any business person wanting to understand whats happening with Startup 2.0. YCombinator ( is seed funding new startups and connecting them with other entrepreneurs to accomplish two goals; one to provide seed money (usually less than $20k) to get an idea launched, and two to assist the companies in getting across the chasm to being market ready. This approach signifies the transformation of the traditional Venture Capital and even Angel funding models.

As a serial entrepreneur this brave new world is both exciting and disrupting, I guess its nice to know that in the face of all thats new, the old standards remain true: What Doesn't Kill You Only Makes You Stronger!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is Facebook Important? I think so.

But I found someone who doesn't.

Earlier today I was checking out Hacker News, a really great site I visit almost daily, ran a post linking to a blog "Facebook Is Really Not That Special" which successfully pulled me and many others in. The writer is Matt Maroon, a blogger I hadn't read previously that proposes that Facebook and the rest of the Soc-nets have limited value and scope.

Of course I immediately visited the site and posted a few comments, because as I see it the social network phenomenon is a fundamental transformation of how a significant market connects to the web.

My view is that you can't simply dismiss this phenomenon as un-important. I suggest that you read his blog and weigh in.