Happy New Year

Hope you end 2006 happier & wealthier than you began it, and that do the same again in 2007

John

posted by John Wilson @ 8:29 PM Permanent Link ,

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Widget predictions for 2007

Ivan Pope of Snipperoo has just posted his 2007 widget predictions at
http://blog.snipperoo.com/2006/12/widget_predicti.html

posted by John Wilson @ 8:27 PM Permanent Link ,

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Unlimited free storage - too good to be true?

DivShare is a service that claims to offers FREE unlimited online file storage and sharing. This takes the online storage arms race to a new level amongst start-ups.

There are a number of firms operating in this space such as

Surprisingly the service can be used without registering although more features are available if you do. The service features:

  • Upoload unlimited files
  • Serve unlimited downloads
  • Files stay online forever!
  • No pop-up ads or spam
  • Incredibly fast, reliable servers
So, with no apparent revenue stream and yet unlimited storage cost exposure I question how long these folks can possibly survive. Whilst the bullets above are differentiators when viewed as a package, it's not clear why a large firm would choose to buy them - cheaper to replicate and use a strong brand instead. So in using them, you're left wondering
Not compelling is it? Sometimes if it looks to good to be true, maybe it is.

posted by John Wilson @ 10:26 PM Permanent Link ,

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News at Seven - is it pointless

The NewsatSeven claims to automatically generate a virtual newscast (3d avatar environment) pulled from stories, images, videos and blogs all linked by a common news topic. News at Seven was developed at Northwestern University’s Intelligent Information Laboratory (InfoLab).

Full details are here

Graphically its a step up from Ananova which was the world's first virtual newscaster, which combined digital animations in the form of an avatar and text-to-speech technology to produce live news. Ananova is now owned by Orange and presently seems to be under renovation.

The major difference is clearly the automatic generation of the script, which seems similar to how I understand Google's news page operates.

Whilst the tech achievement is impressive, does a mashup of the two components add value? I can envisage that those with visual impairments may value the service. Beyond that, I personally find the service a little gimmicky. It's faster to read the headlines than to watch/listen and I find the use of CGI distracting. Nonetheless, with more thought on my part, I'm sure it will be possible to think of some fascinating applications for this.

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Secret Worlds: The Universe Within

I liked this.

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within

View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

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Get your Gmail as an RSS feed

A simple trick to get your gmail as an RSS feed. Details came from Code Snippets

https://USERNAME:PASSWORD@gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom

Thanks to Robert Sandie for highlighting this one - Robert is one of the founders of Viddler
, a fabulous video hosting service I recently posted about.

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The Sayings of Warren Buffet

The Tao of Warren Buffett is a short read from probably the most famous investor in the world, and probably one of the most consistently successful. Each page has a Buffett saying, along with a paragraph or two of explanation. Here's some Buffettisms:
There are lots of other good sayings, 124 in all, so pick up the book if you find them interesting.

Thanks to Businesspundit for pointing me in the direction of this book.

posted by John Wilson @ 10:19 PM Permanent Link ,

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Viddler could turn out to be the best video host this Xmas

After looking for a service that would let me upload large videos and then "deep tag"them, I may have found what I was looking for in Viddler , which is presently in beta.

You can upload many videos at once, and in various formats, too (.mov .avi .wmv .mpeg). You also don't have to worry about file size — you get an allowance of 500 Mb PER VIDEO.

Moments on the timeline of your video are taggable, so you can classify and share instances in time. Timed tags are searchable, too — this is really powerful.

When commenting, the position in the timeline of a video determines where it will be posted to, rather than having comments being attached to a whole video.

You can use Viddler to record footage directly from a web camera to the website, without installing any software.

The service streams video rather downloads it on a progressive basis, hence the ability to hop about within a video.

This could give many services a serious run for their money, combining large file sizes with in-video tagging. Why - well it means you can now
I know other services are already looking at providing similar capabilities - I got a call this week from CEO of one of the best hosting services, who are based in New York, about deep tagging. To introduce this will necessitate them migrating from progressive to streaming video - however he considered the cost of this to be relatively light with open source software now available to do the job. I suspect that Viddler may well accelerate their plans.

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Snipperoo Widget Review of the Year 2006

Ivan Pope of Snipperoo, has written up the biggest web story of 2006 - Widgets. Well worth a read.

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You hum it and I'll find it

I've just got to try this out if only to satisfy my scepticism. Nayio are providing a search engine for tunes/music driven by people humming a track into a microphone.

If it worked, all of those late night drinking session arguments could be settled quickly by humming into the PC and tada - it really was "Coldplay".

The search is limited to music content they have already crawled.

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A new approach to road testing and developing your startup idea

Cambrian House are promoting a service which draws on crowdsourcing principles to help test out entrepreneurial ideas, with the good ones going on to be developed under their supervision.

Focussed around software businesses, the notion is that you submit an idea and if its popular, the "worldwide development community" will build it in exchange for a slice of the action, with Chamelion (?) marketing the software. People contributing to a venture receive "royalty points" which equates to shares in a business.

It's certainly an interesting notion. I suspect that challenge will be to get people to announce their ideas to a wide audience, because people will be naturally suspicious about sharing their ideas with people they don't know for fear of having them stolen.

Other obvious challenges are whether the reviewing group are representative of the market for the idea and hence can spot winners; whether the thing will actually be built by the "group"; and the share split that each party will get.

posted by John Wilson @ 12:40 AM Permanent Link ,

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Cool news site UI - shame about the news

10x10 follows the UI style of Blinx with a picture wall, presenting related story headlines and links in a lightbox when a picture is selected.

Unfortunately, it seems to have pursued the route of aggregating stories with single tags. Consequently, a picture of Russian President Putin was tagged under "Countries", and when that picture was selected, it listed 6 stories of which only one was related to the picture, the other five being "Country" stories. This makes browsing news a little random.

Consequently, I'm not sure this one is going to be a hit as a news site.

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posted by John Wilson @ 11:39 PM Permanent Link ,

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Quantcast lifts the skirt on website audiences

The Quantcast service provides quite an intriguing service. It states that "it helps web publishers of all sizes understand the composition of their audiences and attract higher advertising rates, and helps advertisers and agencies find elusive online audiences wherever they might be. This web site allows anyone to view audience reports on hundreds of thousands of websites."

It claims to have site stats for over 20m sites so it's quite interesting to type in popular sites (bbc.co.uk, economist.com). By embedding a piece of script on your site, it will also perform the same analysis on your site.

Trouble is, how can assess its accuracy except by reference to similar services. It's not like you can easily ask your visitors and get a sufficiently high response (outside of sites requiring registration). Of course, the stats will be different between services because no doubt Quantcast techniques will be "superior" and different if you ask their PR department.

So apart from covering their backsides, is this service going to be of much assistance to people trying to assess how to spend their ad dollars? Hmmmmm

posted by John Wilson @ 9:34 PM Permanent Link ,

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Why Google docs sucks!

I quite liked Writely and was disappointed when the Google facelift was applied, but confess I never tried to write a big document on Writely. So my frustration and fury with Google docs may be linked to issues inherited from its predecessor.

As more of the daily activity move onto online applications, so some of the bigger documents that I have to write occasionally have finally made the transition. A big document for me is in excess of 20 pages.

I've had the same experience on both IE and Firefox.

Trying to do concentrated typing and formatting has proved impossible. Firstly, the formatting seems to have a mind of its own and ends up very haphazard. Insert a carriage return, save the document and wow, where did it go. Bullet points all over the shop.

But much worse is the auto saving function. You are merrily typing away when ZAM; the auto save kicks in as evidenced by a small indicator at the top right of the text box. I'm all in favour of auto save but not when it then proceeds to tell me that the text I've typed since it began unannounced needs to be reapplied and it then repositions my cursor to the top of the document. Perhaps if this was occuring every few minutes I'd be more tolerant.

As it is, I've found this is one area of my work that just isn't ready to migrate online until I switch to a different online word processor (Thinkfree perhaps).

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BBC is to have a new online competitor funded by me

Oh great joy, the Ofcom regulator in the UK has decided that the BBC need some online competition and so looks set to throw £350m at setting matters right - after all, there is a shortage of ventures trying to create digital media operators. Best of all, we UK taxpayers get to fund this idea - yep, we fund a competitor to the organisation we already fund. You just couldn't make this up. This story is an extract from The Guardian in the UK.

Regulator presses on with plan for new digital operator

· Ofcom chief insists his broadband idea is right
· 'Some of most innovative ideas are online'


Owen Gibson and Richard Wray
Thursday December 21, 2006
The Guardian


Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards yesterday vowed to press ahead with plans for a "public service publisher" - a new digital operator - to compete with the BBC and Channel 4 in the online age.

The regulator first raised the idea for a new entrant with a budget of £350m a year, delivering content via broadband, in 2004 when it was roundly derided by broadcasters. But Mr Richards said yesterday that Ofcom had been proved right by subsequent events. "The kernel of the idea, I'm absolutely increasingly convinced we were right about," he told the Guardian. "Look at the speed of change. Where was MySpace when we did that? Where was Google Video?"

The remodelled idea for the PSP, which could come under the wing of Channel 4 or be a new publicly funded entity, would be "very new media focused". He said some of the most innovative ideas were online. Mr Richards said he was on a "personal crusade" to maintain a plurality of public service provision in the digital age.

"If you look at our annual plan, its the imprimatur of that ambition. You'll see the PSP, you'll see a piece of work on children's programming, a review of Channel 4 and a review of the future of news," he said. But he admitted that a proposed review of Channel 4's finances pencilled in for the first quarter of next year had already slipped. "It's been pushed back a little bit because we couldn't get the data from Channel 4. But that's not something we need to resolve in the first month of next year, it's a long term question."

Mr Richards, who took over as Ofcom chief executive in October, also declared that public service broadcasting in its traditional sense was already dead: "I use public service broadcasting as a euphemism. I think it's gone. We toy with the idea of calling it public service content. That's what we call it here. Its meaning has changed over time. When I say public service broadcasting I mean the purposes associated with it."

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Persistent Search - The Holy Grail of Search?

Whilst doing some research into a topic this week, I was looking for a means of running a series of persistent searches for terms related to the topic. What I wanted was a means of defining my search terms(s) and leaving it to operate in the background of an online service that would then alert me whenever new entries "appeared" matching the search - not dissimilar to persistent search with RSS feeds.

A couple of close options I knew of were
Part of the challenge is that search engines generally uncover items by crawling over them; relatively few sites notify them by "pinging" them to alert them to new content/changes.

I'm not the only one who sees the opportunities for services satisfying this requirement, Bill Burnham being another. Monitor 110, which I've written about before, which is seeking to provide a discovery service for hedge funds, will have to tackle this if it is to provide a really valuable service - milliseconds count in trading.

The concept feels analogous to Workflow systems that present "users" with relevant items to action. At one time these systems used to poll for items to present to users but over time moved to event triggers.

Anybody know of any good services in this space or ways of easily executing persistent search?

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The 10 Petals of Success

I liked this from Mind Petals, which states that it was started to connect various intelligent, smart, creative, and young entrepreneurs from all over the world.

The 10 Petals of Success

These 10 petals of success originated from me, David, in my former office (garage) while thinking about some true paths to success for budding entrepreneurs wanting to make things happen with their lives.

  1. Take risks
  2. Start today, not tomorrow
  3. Listen to yourself first
  4. Never give up…try and try again
  5. Use failure as fuel
  6. Never stop thinking
  7. Create something
  8. Help others succeed
  9. Solve problems
  10. Change the world!
No. 8 particularly struck a chord with me. I enjoy networking for a variety of reasons including that sometimes you get the chance to introduce two people you've met/know who should be able to "do something" together.

An introduction like that costs nothing and I agree with Noah Kagan who asserts that to think an introduction is going to eat into your favour's tab is bizarre - if you think that only one side to the intro will benefit then of course you'll be a little circumspect, which is the whole basis of how Linkedin operates.

You also shouldn't do it expecting to be rewarded, but do it because you want to (unless of course your business is matchmaking!) . People often looked stunned when you explain that you are simply making an introduction; end of story and no need for you to be involved thereafter.

It's definitely true that sometimes unexpected benefits will flow back such as invitations to participate in future ventures, introductions to others or simply kind words being spoken.

Sow a little help today.

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I'm not the only one who findsScoble's laugh annoying

Here's a quote today in support of my earlier post on the Scoble Show and Mr Scoble's inane and incessant laughing during his show.

Stuff posted last night on ScobleShow? Sarah Blow gets interviewed by Maryam. She’s a real geek (is an embedded systems programmer and started Girl Geek Dinners, which are much cooler than my own dinners, I’ve gotta admit). I hate my laugh. I’ve gotta stop laughing so much, it really is annoying. So, here’s the deal. After January 1st everytime I laugh I’ll put $5 in a bucket for charity. - Robert Scoble

Robert, I reckon you are going to be skint pretty quickly - unless of course you break your promise. If not, may I nominate Small Steps as a beneficiary of some of the funds raised please - I know from personal experience the invaluable help they provide to children and families alike.

Small Steps helps parents to help their own children who suffer with cerebral palsy and other forms of motor and sensory impairment.

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Happy Christmas VC style

If you're going to issue an electronic Xmas card/greeting, you may as well make one with viral potential and that is a self parody, provided of course money is no object!

This is funny.

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Scoble - A "Face for Radio" or a "Voice for Blogging"?

Whilst at University I got involved in Radio Presenting (Loughborough Campus Radio) which I thoroughly enjoyed. Of course, it did prompt the comment that I had a "face for radio".

In a twist to that phrase, I think Robert Scoble has a voice for blogging. Having just watched one of the "Scoble Shows" involving Hugh Macloud, I've decided that Robert simply spends too much of his show guffawing. In case this was an unusual show, I watched a second one to validate the theory and it was the same.

Its one thing to be happy in your work, but I confess to finding it irritating that most of the show seems to involve Robert laughing at nothing in particular, in an almost inane way. Puts me off watching another, despite the interesting line ups,

The only exception is this video involving Philip Baddeley on how entrepreneurs should prepare for funding pitches. Very watchable (less laughing!) albeit it is long at 40 mins.

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Wobble 2.0 - 6 Feb 06

Chinwag have announced their inaugral seminar & networking event in London, scheduled for Tue 6th Feb on Details here and it's only £15 if you book before 22 Jan. Chinwag were recently joined as Editor by Deidre Molloy from NMK, where she ran the excellent Beers & Innovation evenings, as well as editing their extensive output.

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How to "pirate" music

It's often claimed by gun manufacturers that they don't do any harm in producing weapons - it's the users that load the gun, aim at someone and pull the trigger.

Well, rather less serious, in that they focus on copyright infringment, are two apps I came across.

The first works with the excellent music service Pandora and is called Pandora's Jar. It allows you to save the music that is streamed by Pandora (which now has a European presence based out of the UK).

The second, StationRipper, is designed to rip music directly from internet radio stations.

In both cases, even in downloading the apps, the users is doing so in the expectation of pirating music. More ammunition for the Music Industry.

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Never lose your keys again

How often do you lose the keys, phone, kids(!)? I've regularly heard suggestions for a means of tracking such items with a device but confess I've never seen anything that appears to provide a remotely sensible solution. This is the first.

Aside from tracking multiple objects it can also detect items moving out of range e.g. kids and alert you.

Not sure what happens when you lose the detector though.

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Throwaway phone numbers

For a little while I had begun to think of my email address and mobile phone number as my permanent contact points.

So two diverging developments caused me to reflect.
The first has a life of as little as an hour and the latter enables you to carry the same number round for life. Transitory v Permanent identity.

posted by John Wilson @ 11:28 PM Permanent Link ,

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What the heck is my PC doing?

These days I run very few foreground desktop applications other than a browser and perhaps Powerpoint. In addition, I have a number of background applications such as skype, google desktop, norton, AVG and Zone Alarm running.

However, I'm regularly frustrated by my laptop/desktop "wandering" off doing something undirected and slowing the machine down - CPU thrashes away, hard disk whirls. Looking at the Windows Task Manager is no help either; tens of processes about which I've no idea what they purport to be doing eating memory/CPU.

Killing these processes off always seems so tempting but who knows what that might do - could be an important process! So I'm contemplating installing a piece of freeware entitled ProcessLibrary which seeks to demistify what all these processes are, and provide an importance ranking. Hopefully this may allow me a little more insight into what is actually superfluous.

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TCUK is dead - long live "Vecosys"?

Sam Sethi & Mike Butcher - The Revenge of the Jedi (or some similar underdog story).

The daring duo , formerly of Techcrunch UK are back and you can check them out here - don't forget to sign up for their RSS feed.

Good luck chaps - may the UK (& Europe seemingly) be with you.

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An easier way to arrange meetings

I've been looking for a service similar to Timebridge ever since I failed to get onto their private beta. They had announced a web hosted service that assisted you arrange meetings (each attendee publishes available times and the app identifies common ground).

Whilst identifying possible meeting times with colleagues is easy when you have a group calendar (we use airset, but same principle applies to MS Exchange), when extending outside this circle it becomes increasingly hard, especially when the number of participants grows - exchanges of emails, calls etc.

Time spent on this is plain unproductive.

So I was pleased to find two services that I'm now trialling.

Timetomeet, which went live on 10 December, is a free service that is both easy to sign up for and to use. I was up & running in under 2 minutes including the verification email step. Importantly it doesn't require people you invite to sign up for the service. You can also choose whether to send the email invite out from within the service under your guise or instead have it generate a link for each invitee that you can embedd in your own email.

Upon receipt, the invitee highlights when they can offer as meeting times, in a browser hosted calendar. Mutually convenient times are then automatically identified.

For a trivial $5 for 6 months, Timetomeet will also integrate with Outlook, google calendar and apple iCal.

Pointment is equally easy to use, albeit the UI isn't as stylish at Timetomeet. However outlook integration comes as standard at no cost, from what I can tell (haven't tried it yet).

I've yet to see if an ical published version of my airset calendar will integrate with either of these, but that will make life even easier for me.

Obviously my perfect solution would be for my calendar host to offer this service.

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Amanda Congdon on ABC - simply lame

The former Rocketboom presenter who fell out with her partner in a very public way has finally landed her MSM slot with ABC News. Truly dreadful show! Partly cloning the "act" she had on Rocketboom (fast swivels to new camera shot; exaggerated reactions; overly girlie) the content is very lame which perhaps reflects the broadcast audience she is now to serve. It actually makes you realise how good her replacement, Joanne , is on Rocketboom by comparison.

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Techcrunch UK closure - the final post

The last Techcrunch UK post is reproduced here (given it was taken down!)

Last year another senior executive at Six Apart didn’t appreciate the feedback from one of the Brits attending and this year it seems the same it true again. A case of Loic having a case of the Trotts? So this (hopefully) is my last post on the subject of Le Web3. I personally thought my comments on it were honest and tame in comparison to the rest of the web community but it seems not. Although Loic has not updated his own blog, he has been kind enough to post a comment here on TCUK.

“Sam. There is no word to qualify you and this post. You are just an asshole.” (Loic Le Meur)

At least the comment was short, straight to the point, and clear in its point of view which is more than I can say about the conference and even though I don’t agree with Loic’s opinion, at least we can have an open honest two-way debate.

Let me be very clear here. I too have had the pain & pleasure of organising my own events, not on such as grand scale as Le Web. It is sometimes a thankless task. Organising any event is like a Swan. On the surface it needs to look beautiful and run smoothly but you know underneath its legs are kicking madly which often happens in the background at events, as organisers rush around. So I have no doubt that Loic and his team worked really hard and I congratulate them for their superb organisation, speaker roster, sponsors and attendee list etc. and let me add, it’s not Loic’s fault that some of the invited expert speakers chose not to say anything interesting.So I fully understand that Loic must have felt totally pissed off with my post but all I said was what many people spoke to me about in the corridors at the event. Remember the saying “there is no failure just feedback”. Of course my small sample may not be reflective of the wider audience and if not, then I am sure those people will either comment about it here and let me know what they think but hopefully in a more succinct manner than Loic. Personally Loic your best option is to post your own views, on your own blog and then let us all “openly” comment back on your thoughts. If the majority of people indicate I am wrong and that the event met the mark and/or exceeded their expectations then I will happily apologise publically here on TechCrunch. But equally if you feel that you may have got it wrong, even slightly, then I guess you have the opportunity to do the same on your own blog and to explain why the agenda was hijacked by French politicians?

So “putting my money where my mouth is“, I would like to announce that TechCrunch UK will be doing a series of seminars and a conference next year as well as a series of smaller meetings in conjunction with friends & partners which have been in the planning for sometime now. For example Simon Grice the organiser of Mashup will be announcing tonight that TCUK will formally be running the event with Simon as of next year.

The first Mashup event will be on February 22nd. The event will aim to look at what technologies - microformats, RDFa, FOAF, OpenID, widgets - and companies we can expect to all be talking about in 2007. The title of the event is called “What next, Web 3.D?” and a complete list of speakers and the signup page will go live shortly after tonight’s Mashup.

We are also planning an Enterprise 2.0 event in mid-March called “Barbarians at the Gates” in conjunction with Ralph Cochrane who organises the CIO conference and speakers from the Enterprise Irregulars.

There is also a large open summer party (BBQ) and daytime event called “the bloggers are back in town” in the planning right now. There will also be a series of “secret” TechCrunch parties that will be done by word-of-mouth only. The next is on the 21st February. The last one worked really well. Of course there will be more regional networking events planned like NW Startup 2.0 event in Manchester, the next of which is in Leeds on 1st February.In addition to the above events, we are planning a series of OpenSpace events, a collaborative idea proposed by Ryan Gallagher (Connect Me Anywhere) and a concept brought to my attention by Judy Gibbons.

Finally TCUK will look to organise a conference in September which will enable us to put into practise what I have learnt from other events both good, bad and ugly.

, ,

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The sad demise of Techcrunch UK

I'm very sorry to see the news re TCUK tonight and I've posted to Mike's comments as follows:

"Mike, I agree with Ivan Pope. TCUK has been reporting for some weeks that it was trying to provide a forum for startups in the UK to promote themselves to investors (of which I am one)- “Money Mondays” was hardly secret. This was a fabulous idea designed to help startups find investor backing. The UK community via TCUK was endeavouring to remedy some of the endemic & systemic faults that impede us (Brits) replicating the Valley successes. Why would you seek to stifle this, when it enhances the brand’s significance? Moreover TCUK was one of the few brands with the credibility to organise such an event.

I too endorse the comments relating to the gutsy editorial opinions that we got to see on the TCUK site with Sam & Mike, something not always evident on the main site. Le Web was already being trashed on most blogs for a variety of failings, with even the BBC giving it poor reviews.

We have to respect its “your ball” and you can do as you choose with it, including take it home to the US. Sadly I think you may have made the lapse in judgement on this one but suspect its irretrievable now."

The comments on Mike's blog are very supportive of Sam & Mike's work on TCUK and the closure circumstances have drawn much criticism for Mike. Moreover, Mike Arrington is attracting much criticism of late from a variety of sources including Dave Winder and Jeff Jarvis.

My solution is to get a mashup of BBC Click Online & Dragons Den Programmes under BBC Worldwide to takeover this space. They provide a credible media brand that also supports tech and entrepreneurship!

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Tom Peters in Bahrain

I confess to being a Tom Peters fan.

Whilst he has many detractors I love his enthusiasm and passion about business. He also succinctly delivers key messages that are often iconoclastic in nature but bang on the money.

His latest slide deck can be accessed here.

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7 Lessons for Startups

David Beisel always has interesting things to say on his blog, Genuine VC. This post covers Sevens Lessons Learned for Startups, which is part of a series aimed at Startups. My favourites from the list are
- Input not consensus. Being decisive is essential - its easy to always defer executing and wasting the time advantage you have. Likewise whilst you may feel you need to be "nice" to everyone and incorporate their view, this can simply leave you with a muddled outcome, often with a lack of clarity about where accountability lies.

- Be authentic. I've written recently about being honest in your funding pitch, emphasising that there is no point being false because you just can't maintain it. David rightly extends that to all your dealings.

- Dead Cats don't bounce. Knowing when to drop your idea is probably the hardest thing of all for any entrepreneur - "if we just do XXX or spend a couple more months everything will come good!". It hits your pride hard, acknowledging that you've "failed". Yet you've undoubtedly learnt a huge amount. Indeed some investors will sceptically question someone that has not failed as it suggests they've not taken enough risks!

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Can you trust anyone with your idea?

Jason Devitt, who was co-founder of Vindigo, the company best known for it apps for PDAs and mobile phone, has a good post on his blog about the paranoia of the startup and who they might share their idea with.

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An Englishman in New York, Marbella & Sydney

According to the Institute of Public Policy Research 10% of Brits live abroad - 5.5m live overseas with Oz and Spain most popular. UAE is showing fastest growth.

This suggests some great social network opportunities for folks wanting to meet other expats & keep in touch with home.

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Sorry Chris Anderson but the "short tail" has replaced the "long tail"

In homage to Chris Anderson's famous theory of niche markets (the long tail) I was interested to read that condoms designed to meet international size specifications are too big for many Indian men. The Indian Medical Research Council study said 60% of men in Mumbai required sizes 2.4cm shorter.

Evidently this is the kind of niche market Chris is referring to, albeit more short tail than long

Sorry - I just couldn't resist posting this. Apologies for any offence caused but it made me laugh loudly to link the two things.

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Momo london event tonight - full details here

I'm at mobile monday london right now.

First to present was "See Me TV" which is available on Mobile Telco 3
- . Members of the public can submit their 30 second video captured via their mobile in exchange for 10% of the gross revenues generated from people downloading the clips.

- browsing some clips is free (other than data costs)

- 500k paying downloads a month charged at between 10p-150p a clip, with an extra 5p to comment.

- 16m clips now hosted by see me tv.

- £350k payouts to date to creators.

I confess I don't get this. Sure, I understand the business model and how they are making money from providing an infrastructure. Its the fact that that the content is rubbish (the presenter said this was the most popular stuff he was showing and represented the dawning of genuine reality TV, even though every clip was of someone attempting to do something funny.) I don't know who pays to download this trash but given they have to be over 18 to download, whoever they are their electoral vote should be removed.

Next up is a strategist from Nokia. And I thought some of my stuff was stating the bleeding obvious - "social networks will be big"; "mobile will be very important to the future development of the web". Inspiring & educational - not

(I think momo london perhaps need to introduce the concept made famous by the Gong Show (1970s cult show that repeated in the 1990s) i.e. presenters can be "gonged" off when you tire of them)

Next up was a chap from Intercasting Corp which offers a social network infrastructure. This was an interesting & engaging speaker who churned out stats galore. He described the likely migration from PC to mobile in the social networking arena primarily as a consequence of the youth market who spend their life on the phone.

- 61-80% of 13-19yr olds in UK, US & Canada are members are on myspace, friendster or xanga. Challenge for these sites is they can be fashion trends and dumped as quickly as they became prominent.

- Friendster was dominant, fell away & then bumped up thanks to popularity in the Philipines. Now myspace which had had great growth is becoming untrendy.

- Club Penguin works for tweenies: Piczo is the home for teenage girls, "hi5" is popular with for minority groups, xango suits teenage diarists apparently

- 8X times the number of people are doing sms v instant messaging.

- 3% attrition in kids mobile market because the size of phone bill in a given month results in phone being taken away by their parents who see the bill.

- Apparently 40% of teens will respond to unsolicited SMS messages

- kids increasingly belong to many social networks (in the same way adults belong to many IM services). Their loyalty to a brand is shallow.

Next was Ben Tatton-Brown of Pitch, the first ad sponsored mobile social network/community. It has 52 employees; is 6yrs old & claims profitability. Pitch has 20,000 members who agree to receive 3 multi-media ads per week. 52% of their audience is female and 49% of the audience are aged 16-25. They get 500k impressions per month on their website. Other notable highlights of the presentation included

- Free mms is offered between members
- 10gb free online storage
- You join by texting "pitch" to 87000
- they identified customers want free texts & free content. So they offer 10,000 free items inc ringtones, images & games. This free content is paid for with targeted ads.
- Pitch charges £20 per cpm for banner ads (top and bottom of wap home page) & corporate profiles that are displayed on their wap site. Push ads cost £100-150 per cpm with tariff increasing as the advertiser specifies a more focussed demographic.
- 89% of 5-24yr olds own a mobile phone in the UK (this seems very high to me if you include young kids).
- 2.8m ringtones are downloaded per month in the UK.
- Pitch supports, sms, mms, video streaming, banner ads

Nice-1 described their app that helps you manages nodes (people, sites, channels, services). Its supports messaging, video downloads & mobile blogging/email

Pinppl is a mobile network for blackberry users! .You tag yourself in a manner to help people find you in the community. Once you find someone via their tags, you can message them (unsolicited). Ok, I'm a blackberry addict and I have no clue as to why a blackberry user (in work & usually professional/managerial) would ever want to use this, unless they were friendless - I think we may just be the wrong demographic!

Wow. What a finale. Soonr launched in Nov 2005 and was founded by an alumni of borland & netobjects. They have users in 200 countries, work on any handset & any network because no application needs to be installed. It does require a small download on the PC that exists to synch your PC data to your phone via a central host. Soonr has a google desktop search capability that can scan your desktop remotely from your phone (Orb can do this too) & can support using skype from the mobile.

Soonr AnyTime was launched today & premiered at the event. It uses mobile ajax via mini opera and can operate your home PC from your phone in real time. You can access multiple computers provided they have been shared & friends can even share folders on their PCs with you, and all with no install of anything on the phone. This was an amazingly cool app and I'm installing as soon as I get home to see if this is as good as it looks.

In the announcement section, Vodafone advised that the Home Secretary in the UK is taking consultation on whether social networks should be regulated and specifically whether under 18s should be allowed to participate. This could have huge implications for the market and so its unsurprising all the big social networks are lobbying hard as part og the advisory group.

Thanks to the influence of a chum of mine, Sarah Blow of girl geek dinner fame, I now find myself checking the level of female attendance at events - out of 120 attendees there look to be about 10 females in the audience. That said, there was a considerable amount of angst regarding the registration process for this event as a consequence of the registration list opening at 9pm on evening and being full by about 10.30pm.

Once again, a good and popular event and I'd recommend it.

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BBC backstage bash - cheers

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I'm not the only one using a blackberry in "meetings"

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson used his Blackberry to liveblog a George Bush & Tony Blair press conference — about getting the presidential evil eye for asking a question that evidently riled Bush.

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Gmail can now retrieve email from other pop accounts

I just read that gmail has finally introduced the ability to retrieve email from other pop accounts into gmail and will be rolling this out gradually.

I have several email accounts and for some time have wanted to consolidate them into gmail for two reasons. Firstly the gmail spam filter tends to be quite effective. Secondly I find that the facilities in gmail tend to be better than the other services I have.

Whilst an option might have been to forward emails onto gmail, not all of my legacy email addresses supported this.

Most of my email activities I actually do from my T-mobile Blackberry, but for html email I have to revert to either web mail or I still pull the emails via pop into Outlook which I use as an additional backup record.

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And this person considers themself a marketing professional

At first I thought this was a spoof article, given that most credible marketeers would surely be embarrassed by this. But seemingly it was genuine

"Why You Should Pitch Your Business to TechCrunch

.

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A competitor for Trusted Place

One of the sponsors at yesterday's BBC Backstage party was TrustedPlaces who provide a word of mouth community site where people can remember, share and discover great places.

I'd first met the founders at the Techcrunch UK launch party in the company of Phil Wilkinson of Crowdstorm. We'd chatted about our shared belief that recommendations from people you trust would be the foundation of many successful ventures - both have sites focussed on this concept.

For the avoidance of doubt, great places in TrustedPlaces terms isn't restricted to bars, clubs or restaurants. Tonight's home page has a featured recommendation for a butchers! You can distinguish between all recommendations and those only from "friends" you have on the site.

WeHangHere in contrast seems to be more focussed on helping people find, message and meet the people who "love hanging in your favourite (social) places". Furthermore, the emphasis is definitely on places to meet a potential dates, with every venue showing how many "Guys/Girls" have rated the venue. Likewise the public registration information is focussed on personal details about you, albeit your name remains undisclosed, allowing searches to be conducted for people meeting their chosen criteria.

Being a free service, they've been able to make use of Google maps and have done a great mashup.

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How Amaranth's $6.6 Billion Collapse Began With Trader's Bid to Quit

Bloomberg have an article detailing the downfall of Amaranth, the biggest hedge fund implosion ever, losing $6.6 billion on bets in natural gas contracts.

The trader responsible, Brian Hunter who was 32 at the time of the collapse, 17 months earlier had been offered a $1 million bonus to join Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors LLC but was persuaded to stay with a promotion, greater responsibility and an increased package. In 2005, Hunter earned about $75 million, or an agreed 15% of profits he made.

Notably, with returns in other instruments drying up, Hunter's gas contracts had become the saving bet of the firm for two years straight. And what was this complex strategy he was pursuing - Hunter was betting that the difference in prices of natural gas between winter months and summer months would widen.

Sometimes, management discipline and common sense get blinded by greed and desperation.

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Should I conceal or publicise my competitors?

Tom Peters, world famous management sage, has an interesting article about whether to conceal or publicise one's competitors. He firmly advocates promoting awareness of them.

I think that few would intuitively answer as Tom suggests - insecurity would lead most people to hope that by not drawing attention to competitors, customers and prospect may simply remain ignorant of their existence and hence not defect to them.

Yet, looked at dispassionately, you'll keep your customers by offering them the best service/product and if you're not, then do something about it. Equally, you're fooling yourself if you think your customers won't find out - word gets round very quickly and customers are increasingly becoming connected to each other, often via the internet.

Whilst not making your customers aware of your competitors doesn't qualify as dishonest, it may not reflect an honest approach to dealing with your customers.

posted by John Wilson @ 10:17 PM Permanent Link ,

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Braincast - the modern day dictaphone

Braincast is an interesting idea - a free message and memo service that allows you to record audio reminders for yourself on the go, and which makes them available online to listen to at a later time.

You ring a specified number to leave your message which is automatically added to your account. Notes can be added to messages that you record and your audio messages can also be forwarded onto others via email as a .wav file. Additionally you can even get Braincast to automatically call you at a date/time and number you nominate to play an audio recording.

Sadly this service is only available in the US.

Given the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones, this is a great way of recording your ideas/inspiration or even todo's as they arise (mobile signal permitting) for later processing. Certainly beats the heck out of carrying a dictaphone (which I don't) or restricting yourself to a phone with an inbuilt memory that allows you to record audio (not a feature on the blackberry).

posted by John Wilson @ 9:50 PM Permanent Link ,

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Hierarchy - the hiding place of B listers

Jack Welch, the notorious former chairman of General Electric famously declared that

Hierarchy is an organisation with its face to the boss and its ass to the customer.

Bang on. He could have added, Hierarchy represents a place where status matters more than service or innovation.

Likewise it feels a truism that Hierarchy only let's blame go downwards without regard for its accuracy or destruction of motivation to take chances.

posted by John Wilson @ 9:39 PM Permanent Link ,

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Those folks at Numly are busy

Some teams/ventures manage to produce one good idea and focus solely on that. Some argue that this is the right thing to do because lack of focus is the undoing of many companies.

However, if you can both innovate and execute on a repeatable basis, then why be constrained by a convention.

That's why I admire ventures like Zoho, 37 Signals and Numly. You might be surprised that I would include the latter of these in such esteemed company (you may even ask "who?"), but these folks have churned out six simple ideas very quickly. Whilst I am mildly indifferent to several of them (no "Wow" factor), sometimes you may as well let the customers decide if an idea is any good rather than prevaricating over it for too long.

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Dilbert - The Greatest Management Theorist ever

Perhaps it the cheeky kid in me that means I've always loved Dilbert and its' sharp observational humour - its rare to see an episode that doesn't ring true.

This is just another great example of its insight with advice on how to act smarter - and yes I do have very poor eyesight.

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BBC backstage xmas party

Wow. This event is heaving with the great and the good from the web app world.

400 people were lucky enough to register in time, with 200 on the wait list.

With a City of London venue, getting there was like walking through a ghost town. The City only has a small resident population and at weekends you tend to only find either building maintenance crews, film crews or IT project migration staff (cutovers taking place over weekends generally). This dwindles even further at night, which I recall from my days living in one of the Barbican towers.

Seen lots of familiar faces albeit there are so many people & so little light it will be easy to miss people.

Lots of the attendees also seem to be heading off to Paris for Le Web, which has nearly a 1000 registered worldwide attendees.

Lots of credit has to go to Ian Forrestor who has worked tirelessly to organise this. Earlier this week whilst I was staying up watch the Ashes through the night, he and I were chatting on skype IM, albeit he was laying down music tracks, designing t-shirts/banners etc.

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Veotag - devil's in the detail

After seeing veotags in action on Guy Kawasaki's blog, I've raved about them to many people I know that publish long video clips online.

Today was the first day that I've had any footage to publish & it was family related. I used blip.tv to upload the video (video was 24 mins long).

The tagging process was easy. And the crossnetworking publish to the family was also simple (blogger didn't like the native javascript).

However, if you host your video on other than the paying version of veotag, which is permitted, then the smallprint you need to read is that veotags are only useful if your host streams the video.

Google video is an example of one service that does stream.

If, like blip.tv, your host delivers the video down from start to finish, then the tags are rendered pointless because the whole video has to have downloaded before you can skip back & forth between tags.

So the hunt is on for an alternate video host of long video (the only time tagging really adds value).

posted by John Wilson @ 8:52 PM Permanent Link ,

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You can't get luxury cars

I've been chatting with Sam Sethi of Techcrunch UK a fair bit lately about the alleged "equity gap".

To me it's a myth but one that's easily explained by three things

- some people have stupid ideas/ventures and so can't find people to back them

- many entrepreneurs don't know any investors or where to find them. Consequently they link this with there being no money available. I agree the market is presently poor at bringing together buyers & sellers with the consequence search costs are high. Likewise price formation is haphazard & inconsistent. Doesn't mean the money isn't there though.

- the price for funds is often unappealing to entrepreneurs and I think this is the real issue.

If I said "I find it impossible to get a luxury car, there aren't any" you'd think I was mad, because of course there are lots available. "Ah yes, but they all cost £75k+, there's none for £1".

In my experience the equity gap is actually a valuation gap. "I want £1m in exchange for 20% of my company". When the answer comes back that the investor expects 45%, the entrepreneur claims there's no money available!

So let's not persist the lie any longer.

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A Full Minibar

I wandered along to the 2nd Minibar last night, a monthly meetup of web affectionados. Begun as an abbreviated form of Barcamp (hence the name), the place was packed, with over 120 people turning up.

Whilst the free drinks may be an enticement (thanks last night to revver.com), the networking opportunities were mentioned to me by many people as a lure, as well the chance to hear the very short (5 min max) intros to groups/companies doing "stuff".

Last nights slots included buddyping, drop send, quotationsonline.

Unfortunately I had to skip early to a dinner engagement, but this is definitely an event to put on your calendar if web apps are of interest to you either as an investor, entrepreneur or developer.

Worth noting a) at least 20% of the audience were female b) I was the only investor there - no wonder folks get the impression investors aren't interested & hence believe in the "equity gap" to quote from Sam Sethi's piece in techcrunch UK.

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Threshers need a new IT dept/host

Thought I'd better get round to using my Threshers voucher courtesy of my chums at Stormhoek, the existence of which has managed to get a wee bit of publicity.

Being lazy well prepared, and despite there being a store about 0.5km away, I thought I'd check out what they stocked in the stores and at what price by looking at the Threshers website - I never shop there ordinarily.

Unbelievable - their website is offline. Must be my mistake. NO. I check 10 times and with different browsers etc. They have taken their website down.

So it appears that at a time when they are likely to be generating tens of thousands of hits, looking at what Threshers have to offer, people like me who rarely look at Threshers, the've pulled the plug.

Presumably their current infrastructure evidently can't cope with the demand and one can understand that they might be unwilling to make a long term investment. But hasn't their IT Director heard of temporary hosting arrangements offered by the big hosting companies? Was itfelt to be too expensive or just not worth the bother for this "short term blip".

They are CRAZY.

You may question why I think they should incur the extra expense when they are already taking a beating with the voucher. Simple. This is likely to be the biggest attention they've had ever - much bigger than they are likely to have gotten having paid Gordon Ramsey £500k (or whatever) to promote their stores over Xmas. So they are wasting an opportunity to present themselves to customers. Sure, these same people are likely to go into the stores anyway, but in my experience the stores are unlikely to be able to achieve the same promotion effect.

How much would this much publicity have cost them in advertising - BIG MONEY; Lots of people I know are talking about it, because it seems an unbelievable deal - "wow, they must be losing money on this; better get it whilst we can". Has Threshers ever been a topic of nationwide conversation before - nope.

Oh well, no point disrupting the IT dept, after all its only the attention that the business ordinarily craves.

UPDATE: Just had a chat with the two chaps that work in my local store. Ordinarily it does about £11k per week. Last Saturday it took £7,500 post discount.

They also told me that in one of the stores in London somebody had re-produced the coupon but bearing a 90% discount. Oddly enough it was stopped, but warranted a group wide alert!

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Read my lips - Networking at events is important

In general, people do business with people. Actually, it's stronger than that, in that people will generally do business with people they trust

Such business relationships create competitive advantage, because provided your partner/supplier doesn't abuse it (in which case they will lose your trust) you will generally award business to people you know and have a positive relationship with. This is why "outsiders" or "newbies" in an existing market often take a considerable time to build market share - they are having to build relationships.

Granted that more stuff is being done online via "self service" stores that allow one to select and, in some cases, configure products. However, it's hard to build a relationship with a website and that website doesn't tend to "appreciate" you coming by the store or asking how your little girl is after recalling you had to cancel the meeting last time because she was sick (true story - a chap I met at a networking event a couple of weeks ago, recalled me saying in conversation that one of my daughters had been unwell. Few days later he dropped me a note to say he hoped things we're improving. Wow - he got my attention and I was quick to acknowledge it.)

In my experience it is possible to build some relationships quickly - you just spark with some people. But in general, relationships take time to develop - people are generally wary. The first step though is actually meeting them. Sounds obvious, yet so many people fail to do the leg work of networking.

On average I go to two events per week. Some are one-offs but the majority are regular event meet ups. Over time you learn which are the "good" ones, from personal experience or from recommendations. Some have crowds where everyone is keen to chat with each other; others need several visits before you become "accepted".

I happen to be fairly outgoing, so am less intimidated about walking up to a group of people I don't know to introduce myself and hopefully have a chat. Personally, I've always tried to focus on the fact that its rare that you have much to lose by trying to begin a discussion, since you'll always know more by doing so than if you don't. Specifically, you will either be able to discount that person from your list of "prospects" or "qualify" them as a person who you might be able to do something with (work, invest, collaborate, meet other people via, enjoy a drink and their pleasant company) .

Easy for me to say perhaps. So, if you are an introvert, you should check out this post on Business Pundit, which provides some suggestions.

You might also be interested in this Harvard Business School article on understanding VCs networks.

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Airbrushing ex's out of your life (or at least your photos)

After seeing the transformation of the lady in the Dove commercial - this article explains how to airbrush annoying people out of your photos. Admittedly it may take a little pessimistic planning to achieve, but hey that what's being insecure is all about - expecting the worst.

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Oh really, you've got a video hosting site - how unique!

Light Reading has identified 61 video hosting sites and wonders why there are so many on Tom Foremski's blog.

Can you really have too much of a good thing - yes, I think you can! Trouble is, who can be sure that the 61st one to launch isn't simply the best, with the result that it will dominate the market. Oh the insecurity of being an investor........its not the fear of losing money, its the fear of missing the big one.

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Are all investors just plain rude, self centred & gits?

Mark Suster of Koral recounts his experience of a VC meeting which presents a pretty dire picture of investors (of which I am one).

So let's consider the scenario, rather than Mark's specific experience.

Funding meetings are always challenging, but in some ways they are no different from any "sales" meeting. The "seller", in this case the entrepreneur, often wants to tell their story a certain way - they've rehearsed it, believe they know what the investor wants to hear, and are sure that it will be an interesting story likely to captivate the listener.

However, the buyer (investor) has things that turn them on; angles they want to consider; needs they want met. And sometimes, the seller just isn't hitting the mark.

Now, let's start with the premise that an investor isn't intent on wasting their time - pointless meetings designed to pass the day or into ritual humiliation sessions etc. So generally they are hoping that the entrepreneur is going to bring them a fabulous opportunity to get seriously rich(er).

It's certainly a possibility that the investor may be kissing lots of frogs to find the "Prince" and hence determine early in the meeting that this opportunity isn't for them (we'll go with the notion that there is actually an opportunity rather than a stupid idea - you'd be amazed what rubbish is sometimes pitched!). Then it certainly can be 50 minutes of hell for both sides unless you want to cut the entrepreneur off at the legs and cut short the meeting - doesn't normally happen.

In Mark's example, it certainly can be the case that not all the assembled audience want to be there - again, lots of sales meetings can be like this.

As an entrepreneur you should watch for the same signals as you would in a customer meeting and there's no harm in regularly testing the waters during the meeting - "are we covering all the relevant areas for you? Does our offering appear to fit your sector profile? Have you seen similar offerings and what were your thoughts on them?". I know these are closed questions but the gist is engage your audience and continue to affirm there is a connection. If there isn't, then close the meeting after checking that your audience is happy to stop.

Someone suggested to me that the funding process is a little bit like dating. Don't expect everyone you meet to be your ideal partner or you theirs. First dates can be a disaster
because you're unsuited but equally for many other reasons. Don't take this to mean you are a necessarily a bad proposition - just bad for this particular investor.

In contrast, sometimes the investor will be keener on you than you are on them!

Ultimately, and to stretch the analogy to its ultimate limit, teaming up with an investor is like getting married, except in this case there will always be a prenuptial (shareholder) agreement. Post the ceremony you may have great times, laughs, sadness, disappointment and fights. But you are entering into a relationship, make no mistake.

And if you get "hurt" on the first date, it doesn't mean all "men" are gits. Just some.

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Snap Anywhere - Bad experience

I updated my blog to insert the code snippet that would allow link previews via Snap Anywhere. Little did I realise that this would render the page virtually inoperable to anyone viewing in IE. This may not be the general experience for Snap Anywhere but it certainly happened to me when I checked it in IE6 & IE7, as well as to a couple of regular readers who kindly let me know. Didn't happen in Firefox 2.0, which I've moved onto [because it auto-recovers if it crashes]

Remedy - take the code out and the page worked again!

Hmmmmm.

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Spinvox has got a US competitor

Just found out about Simulscribe which provides a near identical service to Spinvox, but in the US. Confusingly most US residents appear unable to get Spinvox despite this from the Spinvox site

"SpinVox unveiled Spanish and French language services earlier this year and has since expanded its operations further into Europe, North and South America with a German service scheduled to launch in 2006."

Main difference between the two seems to be that Simulscribe may have some technology doing the translation, rather than a call centre.

Two general things of note on this

- The importance of PR & Marketing. Spinvox appears to have done a better job of grabbing the headlines and blogosphere attention. Usually when reporting on firm "A", passing reference is given to similar firms/competitors. For whatever reason, Simulscribe hasn't managed this.

- Getting to market. Spinvox seems to not have hit the US as yet for whatever reason. I'm undecided as to whether there is a land grab advantage in this space since I believe only two things are likely to materially distinguish between competing services a) its transcription accuracy b) price. Mobility between providers will be easy since you only pay per message rather than by subscription - simply redirect to a different service. So provided there's no material issues with the transcription then it may quickly end up being a commodity priced service.

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Blimey - they made a movie about a pub crawl



Thanks to the lovely Ivan of Snipperoo for this great cinematic experience

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Quintura - A search in the clouds

One of the pub crawl alumni was Yakov Sadchikov of Quintura. Now I confess when he tried to explain what their service did, I put it down as simply another search engine.

It wasn't until I tried it out today whilst going through business cards littered amongst various pockets that I realised that this is yet another innovative approach to search.

Type your search term in and as well as bringing you back a list of search result links, it displays a cloud formation of other popular terms related to that phrase/word. The proximity of words to the term you searched for and their size is indicative of their popularity.

The neat thing is that as you hover over words in the cloud formation, so the search results list dynamically filters to those links that also include that term. The number of results is similarly updated. But even better is that additional clouds appear around the additional word to allow you to filter further.

Yakov had mentioned that tool is especially good for identifying groups of keywords around a main search term.

As well as text results, image results can be selected.

In some respects Quintura reminder me of grokker but I felt it was simpler to use and interpret the results.

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"There's nothing worse than drinking without a drink"


DSC00474
Originally uploaded by darrenstraight.
You may have heard of the Gilmour Gang - this is the Drinkmore gang. Featuring Ivan Pope (Snipperoo, front right), Martyn Davies (front left), myself (back left) & Robert Scoble (back right).

"Martyn, you've perfected the drinking action, now put a glass in your hand!"

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Usual Friday night stroll in London with Scoble


DSC00461
Originally uploaded by darrenstraight.
Darren Straight was taking some great shots during the pub crawl last week. I've got a few I particularly like including this one of Robert Scoble & I strolling between pubs (he's the one with the camera, I've got the red & white umbrella).

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Panic on the streets of London

I was just having a quick drink with an old friend who is a City journalist in a pub near Paddington station in London. She & I were sitting in the window seat when 3 police cars screeched up outside and from one of the cars leapt 3 policeman who quickly armed themselves with machine guns.

So unusual was the sight that people were drawn to stare at the sight, rather than duck from whatever danger presumably warranted such a display.

Evidently it was a false alarm because after a few menacing minutes they left in their cars.

It was only after they'd gone I realised how lucky I am to be living somewhere where guns remain an very unusual sight, given the nightly scenes of horror from different parts of the world shown on the news and where guns appear commonplace.

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Five Ways To Kill Your Startup, Which Will You Pick?

This is a great piece in onstartups.com about why some startups never actually get off the ground. I've reproduced them below.

  1. Death Before Life: I’m going to resist the temptation to dive into the metaphor of pro-life and pro-choice (which is a serious topic and I don’t want to belittle here). But, the concept is that the founder is “ready” to start a business. In essence, the startup is “real” (but it’s just in the founder’s head). At this point, the founder will likely start brainstorming. She will start coming up with ideas, bouncing these ideas off people she trusts and respects (and sometimes even people she doesn’t respect) to get a sense of what might work. The goal is to find The One True Idea that when it arrives in the founder’s brain will become this shining beacon of light that will guide the founder and the future management team through the dark wilderness of startup-land. Lots and lots of would-be startup founders kill their startups in the pursuit of The One True Idea. Quick tip: There are very few cases where a founder really comes up with the One True Idea, and even if she did, she’ll likely be talked out of it by friends, family and colleagues anyways.

  1. Death By Isolation: Let’s assume that the founder does finally settle in on an idea. One of the most reliable ways to kill a startup (this one takes a bit longer), is to keep the idea to yourself for extended periods of time assuming that you need to stay in “stealth” mode so that someone else won’t steal it. The idea remains in the founder’s head. Little resources can be committed to it, and the idea is never really brought out into the harsh light of reality to see if it can survive even modest scrutiny. Ultimately, when the idea is forced out, it becomes obvious that there is no way this idea will ever really work. Unfortunately, lots of time passes between the original idea and the ultimate realization that it’s not the right one.

  1. Death By Founder Dissention: If the founder is smart, she will start early in trying to pull together one or more co-founders to help get the business off the ground. Here is where it gets tricky. Founder issues are very challenging. Everything from how do you divide equity, who will do what, who will take on what title needs to be discussed. The only thing worse than disagreeing about some of these things is not disagreeing about these things because you haven’t even talked about them. I wrote about this in “Important Questions Startup Co-Founders Should Ask Each Other”.

  1. Death By Doing Nothing: When I say “doing nothing”, what I really mean is “doing nothing that is creating value for customers”. I am constantly amazed by how many creative ways founders can find to do things that have the illusion of moving their startup forward, but that has almost nothing to do with creating value for customers. Let’s design this fancy website. What about our business cards! What about this 120 page business plan? Surely we have to think through competitive analysis to make sure we build the right product. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are important – but they are all trumped by the single act of creating customer value. If you don’t know how to create value: ask the customer! So many startups delude themselves into believing that all the activity around strategy and planning and marketing and “launch preparation” (yep, I’ve heard that one too, before the product development was even started) is what will determine their success when they “finally get out there”. I get really worked up about this one. I’m going to go get a cup of coffee and stare out my window so I can cool down.
    …Ok, I’m back.

  1. Death By Determination: I should have called this “Death by Stubbornness”, but I like the alliteration and “death by determination” just sounds interesting because we always think of being “determined” as a good thing. To clarify, what I mean here is when you are determined to make your original idea a success. You read somewhere that lots of startups die because they give up on their idea too soon and you’re not going to have that happen to you. Come hell or high water you will see this idea through! Here’s an insider tip: Most successful startups end up doing something that is different from their original idea. Dogged determinedness will likely keep you from building the business that you could have built. Yes, you can’t just drop every idea that comes along at the first sign of conflict or controversy. It’s a very thin line (nobody said startups were easy).

posted by John Wilson @ 9:55 PM Permanent Link ,

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Snap Anywhere - how to easily put link previews within web sites and blogs

Snap.com is a search engine that I return to from time to time, which offers page previews of the search links without having to navigate to the page. I confess I don't frequently use it because the introduction of the google toolbar feature that allows you to click between pages without returning to the search page provided similar advantages.

Well Snap have now introduced Snap Anywhere. It allows links on any page with its code snippet to be previewed. I've just put it on this blog - see what you think.

posted by John Wilson @ 9:39 PM Permanent Link ,

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There panoramic views are amazing

Wow - there's a whole set of panoramic views available at the same site including Rio de Janeiro

posted by John Wilson @ 9:02 PM Permanent Link ,

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360 view from the top of Everest

I am so glad someone has done this - saved me the trouble of popping up there, especially as it might have been raining when I got to the top.

posted by John Wilson @ 8:58 PM Permanent Link ,

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Get your web site reviewed for free

Onstartups.com provides an automated service here that scans your website or blog and scores it on a variety of measures/features. Takes about 30 seconds to run.

posted by John Wilson @ 8:21 PM Permanent Link ,

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The Simple guide to "Word of Mouth" Marketing

The Media Guerilla blog explains the jargon on different types of marketing campaign, which some people abbreviate into "word of mouth"

Buzz Marketing
Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand.

Viral Marketing
Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often electronically or by email.

Influencer Marketing
Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk about products and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.

Evangelist Marketing
Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to take a leadership role in actively spreading the word on your behalf.

Grassroots Marketing
Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach.

Community Marketing
Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests in an industry or a brand.

Social Media Marketing
Using social tools to engage audiences online.

How many did Threshers coupon score on?

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The reality of life in "the promised land" of being acquired

Jim Leff, founder of Chowhound, a forum for food worshiping, whose company was acquired by CNET early this year for a price in the low millions of dollars said his new employee role works like this: “Insofar as my input, there’s a lot of meetings where I’ll say, ‘I think we should do this,’ and they say, ‘I don’t think so,’ and I say, ‘O.K.’ ”

Oh, the joys of becoming an employee in a big company.

Lifecycle:
1. Talent starts innovative business
2. Big company buys talent & their company
3. Big company "B listers" sit on top of talent, using their experience of never having had to build value from scratch to direct the new division activities
4. Big company can't figure out why it hasn't continued to see the success achieved by the business it acquired, in the period since purchase and decides even tighter control of new division is required
5. Acquired talent leaves in disgust [taking most of their riches] and lives on yacht for a while
6. go to 1.

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Money is in plentiful supply for entrepreneurs

Whilst drinking with Sam Sethi of Techcrunch UK today, a chap we were talking to made the comment that still amazes me - he said that entrepreneurs can't find money to back their ideas.

This riles me - there is a huge wall of money out there desperately looking for great ideas to back. But the perception evidently exists so we discussed why it might be

- Entrepreneurs don't know where to look or people to ask. This is a case of a networking and if you can't do this well as an entrepreneur how the heck are you going to do at selling your "thing". Most investors don't advertise themselves - who wants a line of idiots with stupid ideas asking for money. So most investors will only accept meetings from trusted recommendations. There are occasional exceptions but generally you have to network.

- Investors won't back the idea. This isn't a money shortage - it conceals much more usually including its a lousy idea; the team are poor; the plan to execute is weak; the terms are unattractive

- Investors demand too much. Possibly true, but then many entrepreneurs have little to base this on. Similarly, entrepreneurs usually see their offering as a sure thing which just needs a little cash flow to oil the wheels, and thus shouldn't require any "risk premium". Strangely enough, investors usually see a risky venture lacking a few things and facing a challenge, thus requiring a premium to offset probable losses.

- Investors won't pay salaries to entrepreneurs. This is not entirely true as "porridge" allowance is permitted but an entrepreneur isn't necessarily going to be paid to live the high life. This isn't because of double standards by VCs. Personally I can't understand why someone would trade today's cash flow in the form of salary for equity in a business that you believe will be worth a huge amount. Moreover you have to be prepared to take some risk as an entrepreneur (sounds obvious) and being feathernested is just not going to happen.

Oddly, and I think Sam agreed with me, there's no shortage of money just a shortage of talent willing to take a risk with their own ideas or even ideas from others. If you can accept that challenge and your idea is sound, you shouldn't have a problem.

posted by John Wilson @ 11:48 PM Permanent Link ,

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Viral Wine at Threshers

Little did they know that putting a pdf coupon on a Stormhoek web page for 40% of everything, would completely disrupt their entire business and created a bigger media wave than they've ever managed.

Threshers are the beneficiary of the marketing machine that is Stormhoek!

You may recall last week that my new chum, Alistair Morrell of Stormhoek, who accompanied me to the rugby had given me a shout to mention that Stormhoek had received a coupon from Threshers and they were intending to post it on the site. In the week since that call, the coupon has spread like wildfire. Friends have mentioned it to me who've never heard of blogs, but who've forwarded on an email they've received from other friends.

But today it went mainstream because it was on the National News & Radio with Alistair doing several appearances in person. Why - because the popularity of the coupon had crashed the Threshers web site and had caused huge queues at stores around the country, which was all caused by the "internet".

Now bear in mind that a) no money had been spent by Threshers in promoting this b) this offer only amounted to 7% extra discount on wines, albeit it was more generous on spirits & champagnes.

I bet Threshers takes the internet a bit more seriously hereafter, not to mention a good few other marketing directors.

posted by John Wilson @ 11:35 PM Permanent Link ,

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Pub crawl Robert Scoble style

I've just left the 5hr pub crawl (still going) organised by Hugh Macloud for Robert Scoble. A fun afternoon which begin at Eros, Picadilly with 20 or so of us skipping the tourist sites for the interiors of public bars.

In the spirit of shyness & with the aid of my red & white trusty tour guide umbrella I led the crew onto the first stop (glassblowers arms, glasshouse st).

Special thanks go to Sam (techcrunchuk), Ivan (Snipperoo) & Hugh (gapingvoid) as well as Robert (Scoble) for some highly entertaining chats & fun.

We drank, laughed, discussed & mumbled - the way all Friday afternoons should be!

Thanks also to new friends (and old in the form of Tom Morris who has signed up to Crowdchant, an exciting new venture we're backing) to numerous to mention for their company & anecdotes.

The crawl will be immortalised in a scobleshow featuring a guided tour of Saville Row from Hugh.

posted by John Wilson @ 11:31 PM Permanent Link ,

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Anonymity in Blogging - can you be yourself [londongirlgeekdinner]

Looks like I wasn't alone in my comments on the speakers. Ian over at Cubicgarden has posted the video's and his own thoughts. He's even got a video snippet of me asking a question about whether anonymity is acceptable in blogging!

I was prompted to ask this mainly because a great blog called "Dead 2.0" went off air after its writer who wrote anonymously, was threatened with having their "identity revealed". According to rumour, this author worked for a Web 2.0 company and his personal opinions on his blog might have reflected on the employer.

Its one thing to have a conflict of interest which you deliberately conceal or to use anonymity to be abusive (why do people leave comments as "anonymous" - why not use your real name?). Its completely separate and acceptable IMHO to voice personal views "outside of work hours" using an alternate identity simply because most people can't diffuse corporate & personal personas.

Looking back to when I was Board Director of a big brokerage, I know I had to bite my tongue simply to bow to the corporate position the latter of which usually involved not offering an opinion on anything lest we either stood out or offended. Yet generally people do business with people; its impossible to be permanently false, so your true self will out eventually. Indeed, this is a conversation we have with entrepreneurs every time we hear a pitch from them - don't act like you think we'd want you to be in the meeting; just be who you are because we could be together for a long time and its better we both know who each other really is upfront because it gets horrible later otherwise.

Thankfully, I don't have the same corporate chains on these days thanks to some very understanding partners.

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Microsoft introduces Firefox 2007 ;- )

This is very funny - clearly lots of effort gone into it. Especially recommend watching the video. Hope Steve Clayton, Microsoft UK, gets to see it before the MS lawyers kill it.

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