It's not perfect, but I understand what you mean Thursday, March 29, 2007
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The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a
wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer
bein the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll
raed it wouthit a porbelm Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed
ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Is Ringside Startup anything other than a media/publicity stunt and can budding entrepreneurs really learn much from it?
The idea behind it is that the founder, who is understood to be a former Techcrunch journalist, is attempting to raise $20k to fund a new business, and will get advice from a series of investors/entrepreneurs on key issues, all of which will be transparently reported on a blog.
Issue 1: The business idea has yet to be chosen, albeit there is a paragraph outline on a handful of ideas, yet the key objective so far is to raise the money. Hmmm. Cart and horse inversion problem in my view. I concede that this is exactly how VC funds work, namely raise a fund and then identify companies to invest in, but that's not what this project is reportedly about.
Issue 2: Do I receive equity for a financial contribution? Errr, no but you do get free publicity on the blog and your wise words can be seen by all, as your advice is posted in the comments section of the blog (if I have correctly understood the process).
Issue 3: The motivation of the founder seems to be around the media opportunity than actually creating and running a business, which generates actual value. At least the MillionDollarHomePage project was naked in its' desire to raise a ton of cash for nothing.
After 3 days or so, the venture has only raised a few hundred dollars, much to the evident dismay of the founder, who is already lowering his(?) aspirations to $10k and looking for a Plan B. Yet, anyone involving in raising funding would appreciate it is often a slow process - giving up after a few days is not really in tune with the audience experience that the site is reportedly going to educate. Heck, if the site had raised $20k in a few days that would have been very worrying especially with no business to speak of. It might have re-enforced the bubble view.
It's crass, silly and probably unfathomable to most people, but I have a habit of making prices on every day things in casual conversation.
See, I lost you already.
For instance, whilst having a few IM chat's prior to tonight's England game I was asking/making prices in England goals (2-3) and first goal time (17-25). What that means is that I was willing to "sell goals at 2" and "buy goals at 3" or in English - if you thought England would score more than 3 goals tonight then you would have taken my price of 3 with the result that I would have paid you for every goal over 3 that England scored at a rate (pounds per point/goal). Conversely if you felt England would choke, then you would have taken my price such that I would have paid you if England had scored less than 2 goals. I would make money if the number of goals was between 2-3 goals, which was my spread, assuming that I took an even number of offsetting bets.
Similarly, if you thought England would score quickly and in less than 17 minutes, then by buying from me at 17 I would have paid out for every minute under 17 minutes. Alternatively, if you knew England were useless you may have correctly bet that it would take them longer than 25 minutes and I would have paid you for every minute over that.
You can do this on all sorts of things - how long the bus will take to arrive; number of runs; number of peas in a serving from the cafeteria.
This type of "spread betting" is big business for firms like Sporting Index, Cantor Index and Betfair, where the latter service is entirely peer-to-peer betting (pre-dating in vogue services like Zopa by years)..
Anyway, I mention this because I was interested by a new site called Gottabet, which Sam Sethi of Vecosys covered here. It records, administers and collects peer-to-peer personal bets.
Have you ever told a friend “I bet you can’t do this”? At the office, in the pub, while watching TV… Rather than leaving them as casual comments, you can go straight to Gottabet and record the bet, enlist others to participate and then settle up.
I'm with Sam Sethi in believing this could take off. There are considerable numbers of bets made every day in all sorts of circumstances and this provides an easy mechanism to record and administer them. Why would people bother? Well, there's the bragging rights for a start, with a visible record of the bet and the outcome. Also the collection process is dealt with.
Sure, many of you may think this is childish behaviour, but that's fine. It's called being a sports fan and a bloke for starters. Moreover, if you take an investors stand-point you should think less about whether you would use it than would it resonate with others. After all, I think Twitter is fairly pointless - would I invest in Twitter? Possibly, given the evident demand (albeit doubt I'll get the chance). Would I invest in Gottabet? Subject to them having a credible "go to mass market" plan, probably.
Whilst I don't believe it will be as popular as betfair for a bunch of reasons, it does serve a large existing market that might readily adopt this. Will I use it regularly? Wanna bet?
It's a generality but buyers hate choice and are scared about making the wrong choice. Consequently things that reduce choices (brands) and allay our fears about choices are always going to generate some resonance.
Matt Marshall at Venture Beat reports on Oodle, which is a classifieds service with add-on tools to help you make better buying decisions. Take its car classifieds, for example. If you’re searching for a Honda Accord, Oodle gives you market price data, and availability — data that you can’t get at the other sites. If you’re looking for a 2003 Honda Accord with 40,000-50,000 miles, Oodle will show you that the market price for this car is between $12,000 and $17,000 (see screenshot below). The bar chart tells you (apologies, the font size is small) a few of these cars are going for $12,000, you’ve still got a great deal at $14,000. It gives you other features, such as an alert that tells you when Oodel gets a listing for this car priced at $12,000.
Another service I saw recently is about to launch something similar but with the added twist that it will monitor multiple types of market - stores, auctions and classified. Can't say which one presently, but I was greatly impressed particular when it was possible to identify sizeable price discrepancies between these markets mechanisms. Shame there's no easy way to arbitrage between them!
In case you happen to be working at a large corporate and need to kill some time between project meetings where everyone reports nothing has moved on for reasons unrelated to them, this may assist - Kongregate has tons of free games for you to play online.
Aside from being crushed, bombed, suffocated and trapped for hours by signal failure, London Underground users now face a new peril - being knocked down by skiers on the escalator!
I wonder how Tom Morris's twitter tube announcement service will cope with that one?
Having your idea copied is always a possibility Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I was out watching the (dire) England football match tonight in a bar in the West End of London. During the long walk round trying to find a pub with Sky Sports (very few left these days which surprised me - presumably as a consequence of the charges), I was outlining to my chum some of the ventures we are involved in. He is a senior exec at a large hedge fund and was intrigued by a) the possibility of the ventures being emulated and b) our ventures being ripped off by the large companies, who we often try to partner with for distribution purposes, by having their idea copied.
I explained that in some cases technology barriers or first mover advantage may give us a head start etc, and also referred to my recent blog post about big companies being generally hopeless at rapidly responding to change/innovation. For good measure, I also lobbed in the reputation risk that big companies may run if they plagiarise ideas from pitches - aside from being bad mouthed, they may be excluded from seeing future big ideas!
So it was with some interest that tonight I read about Peasy, which looks almost identical to Parkatmyhouse which I recently wrote about, and which offers a service advertising offers and demand for parking spaces.
Is there any recourse? Almost certainly not. Is it legal? Yes. Can I stop it? No. So what should you do in this situation? Be the best and make sure people know it, love it and proclaim it.
Dennis Howlett has an interesting post on an attempt by TomorrowNow, a SAP subsidiary, to cut into Oracle's $2bn annual maintenance revenues by offering the same service for less.
The real threat to Oracle is the $1 billion of those maintenance revenues it potentially loses (Check TN's 50% offer to Hyundai UK) as increasing numbers of marquee customers realise they can get adequate software maintenance at affordable prices. Oracle claims it cannot understand how TN can make a profit at TN's prices. It uses that as an argument to imply that software developers need north of 50 percent to cover maintenance costs.
Software maintenance benefits from juicy margins As Dennis observes, according to Oracle's latest results, support services yield 90% margins.
In many ways, this will be just the beginning of an interesting initial price war, which may of course result in counter-offers and retaliation against SAP's own maintenance charges - customer may query how it is they can charge less to service Oracle products than SAPs.
Of course, price is one thing but it would be great if they went head to head on the real thing - service.
In many ways, this battle is reminiscent of the car service market. Warranties are considered "impaired" if anyone other than one of the over-priced annointed dealerships touches the car in the first few years. Worried about their second-hand value, customers glumly stump up for an indifferent service at inflated price.
I suspect that this will be the next phase of the Oracle play - i.e. following "Must be a lousy service if they are doing it so cheap", may be the "we can't be held responsible for your business critical applications if other companies mess with the application", with an immediate "Only we have access to the creators!". At that point, I bet a number of CIO will have second thoughts.
The history of blogging, faster than you can catnap Monday, March 26, 2007
Jason Ball over at London Seed has this excellent summary of the history of blogging
Having already explained I really don't get Twitter (yet), I was interested to see this post from Mike Butcher over at Vecosys, which followed up on the FT article today.
Today’s FT article estimates Twitter is sending - conservatively - 70,000 text messages a day across its service. If, as Ed French commented on my personal blog, mbites.com, each text costs a minimum of 1p to send, Twitter is burning through 700 quid a day or $1,379.57, or $38,627.96 a month. It could in fact be three times as much if they are using a more robust SMS gateway service which costs more like 3p a text, or $115,883.88 a month. All this for (apparently) no return since there is no advertising on the messages, none on the web pages and no subscription business model either. As I said before, Twitter is really onto something here, especially the API aspect, but now I’m wondering if this isn’t just starting to smell like a ‘dotcom boom’ era story. The one thing in their favour right now is great mojo and press, and an ability to capture the community. They just need to work out what to do next - the hard bit. All the while their adoption is going through the roof. Or maybe they just sell it for squillions and someone else has to figure it all out…
To be fair, many large companies would consider that pocket change to achieve the buzz that Twitter has achieved. And as a stake on being bought out, I know a few VCs who would take that bet. However, given the history that the owner of Twitter had with the VCs involved in Odeo, from which Twitter span out, maybe he is going to keep this one for himself.
For some time, I've used Crazy Egg to understand where people click on this blog, which uses a several techniques include a heatmap to report the results. However you only see what works post event.
Large companies use focus groups to test site layouts, during which they both monitor where people click and also eyeball movements. However, such tests are prohibitively costly for most firms. Hence, this is an intriguing site called "Feng GUI - Feng Shui for Graphical User Interfaces".
It analyses a website page and presents back what purports to be a "scientific" result highlighting the visual hotspots on the page, as you can see in the example above of the Google's home page.
I was at a meeting on Thursday with one of the most senior executives of a significant US Bank. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce them to an early stage venture we are involved in, which we believed that might wish to take a stake in.
We were asked by one of the attendees why one of the big companies in the space wouldn't simply copy it and kill this venture. We acknowledged that it was always a possibility but I added "I'm in dangerous company saying this, but big companies are usually too busy to get round to doing sensible stuff. There are simply be too many other projects they have to get done before they would even assemble an evaluation team to consider it and fill in all the project paperwork."
The Senior Executive turned and smiled - "We certainly understand that problem".
James Hong has the same thought.
Youram Bauman PhD, has sought to explain the 10 key principles of economics
Wisdom of crowds - reality or virtuality Saturday, March 24, 2007
On Friday I met with COO of one of Europe's largest brokers, who is an old friend. During the "hellos" we reminisced about how in the 1990's it had been possible to analyse retail broking transactions and identify clusters of investors that might have appetite to participate in IPOs.
I mentioned how similar crowd "knowledge" was being generated amongst communities online now and gave him a few examples. In each case people are acting for personal gratification but their actions/behaviour is providing useful indicators when aggregated with other individuals.
PicksPal which is a sporting event prediction site. Its' users vote on amateur and professional sporting events but do so for fun rather than money. You to spend points to try and beat the odds makers - you win or lose points depending on the accuracy of your picks and your risk appetite. PicksPal does award prizes to the top performers and says they've over 100,000 registered users, albeit not that many playing regularly.
Like Betfair and Sporting Index, you can bet on a lot more than just the outcome of the game. such as who will be winning at various points in a game, or which player will score the most runs.
The value add though is that PicksPal sells "expert" picks, based on the selections of their top performing members, on which people can bet real money. They claim to have a 52% win rate for their last 25 picks, with a 63% win rate overall.
In similar fashion, Marketocracy looks to monitor the best investors and aggregate their collective knowledge to create a virtual fund. Users are allocated an initial $1 million when they sign-up and 60,000 users have joined to date.
However, Marketocracy went a stage further in November 2001 in launching a real mutual fund based on the virtual investments of its 100 most successful members (as determined by a computer ranking). The Masters 100 Index fund, has $44 million in assets and has outperformed the S&P 500 Index with an average annual return of 11.4% since its inception.
It is for this reason that one has look a little deeper when looking at the results of "crowd knowledge" - are people really behaving as they would in the real world and will they suffer the consequences. If not, it's likely to be unreliable as a guide on which to base real world actions.
Video didn't kill the radio star - we were all in a London Bar last night. Friday, March 23, 2007
Back in my University days at Loughborough, I was involved in Student Radio and "Ents" (the society that staged music events). Both were enormous fun and taught you a huge amount about running a business as both were commercial ventures in their own right. Personally I'm far more willing to hire an graduate that did student radio that one that claimed membership of the "Entrepreneurs Society". Usually the latter group wanted membership on the CV and did visit to businesses, whereas the former group actually got involved in a business. Of course, there is some personal bias/allegiance here in similar fashion to any alumni relationship but I believe that this one has genuine merit.
Funnily enough, doing student radio often was often considered incredibly geeky albeit some of the beautiful people did it as prep for their TV careers (you'll know which camp I was in).
So it was a great delight to attend the Alumni of Student Radio Association ("ASRA") which met for a social gathering in London last night. I only stumbled on this group by accident whilst recently researching the story on online music royalties which are subject to some change right now in the USA as I recently wrote about.
It turns out it has 500 or so members and there were about 100 there last night drawn from many UK universities, with graduates of various ages present (ok, I was probably in the oldest 10%) . Many lived outside London, with some people having travelled down from Scotland, the Midlands, Norfolk and Somerset to attend.
As it happens I didn't know a single person. But I did know that they all had been involved in Student Radio.
I had an excellent evening and by the end of the evening I had met some absolutely fascinating people doing great things, most of whom operate in a sector I don't spend much time in, namely broadcast media. Some of the people I met included
- Sam Potts, who's at Warner Brothers Records (ex Edinburgh Radio) promoting artists
- Person who must remain nameless, who is working on Radio 2 and who most recently sprang to fame with the 31Days project, which was a journalistic insight in 21st century dating. Every day for 31 days between Jan 14 - Feb 14 she had to undertake a different means of finding a date. She even auctioned herself off on ebay and got a winning bid of £210 for her to be a dinner date!
- Ian Gardner, who is a Sky TV presenter
- Nick Prater who works at Radio Monitor
- Will Jackson who is one of the Radio Regulators at Offcom
- Ed Nell, who is ex Lufbra, and hosts the morning show on Beacon Radio in the Black Country (my old home radio station!). After spending the evening in London, he had to drive back to Wolverhampton ready for his show this morning at 9am. As someone that did a few shows with a hangover and deprived of sleep, it was easy to predict it would be a tough morning for him. Sure enough, he pinged me an email about 11am confirming as much.
- Matt Deegan, who is at Gcapmedia in their strategy group and who is spending much time on interactive projects
- Alistair Wilson (no relation) who is at the Dept of Constitutional Affairs but still does community radio
- The producer of the UK Chart Show
- John, the deputy programme Controller for Beacon Radio who was also ex Lufbra.
It turned out there were about 10 ex Lufbra Campus Radio ("LCR - blasting out loud and proud") in the room stretching back to the late eighties (Me!). We were able to swap stories about the times we'd each had in the studios and I learnt about the fabulous new studios that were recently built at a cost of £1m and which put many commercial stations to shame!
Great people, with interesting stories. But two things really stood out for me. Firstly, many of the attendees were in senior positions in broadcast media or related businesses as a direct consequence of their student activities. Secondly, these people understand about the battle their industry is in and are in the front line of remaining relevant to their audience.
Penelope Trunk has a good article entitled on "Networking for People Who Hate Networking"
Networking is a vital skill and shouldn't be shirked. Of course, it seems to come easier to some people. But that's partly a mental attitude. "What if they don't want to talk to me or don't like me" or "we have nothing in common" are common concerns/fears. But let me make the following observation - most people will talk about themselves if given the opportunity. So, if in doubt, ask questions about them to get the conversation going.
You can have enormous fun and learn a huge amount doing it. Walk into a room of people you don't know - well that represents a lot of new stuff you're going to learn and new potential friendships.
I'm a strong believer that you must network only on the basis of a fair trade, which I've blogged about before. By this I mean you can't go into it expecting to be "taking" from everyone you meet. Sadly too few people adhere to this and go into conversations along the lines of "how can you help me".
As a minimum you have to "give" something too and it may be you spend a whole evening just "giving" e.g. introducing people to each other or making suggestions as to who a person should contact. Let me assure you, this is a great reputation to have and the returns normally come back several fold.
I've raved several times about Zoho and their incredible capacity to churn out great online applications. The quality of product and service is excellent. Whilst not as functionality rich as desktop apps such as Microsoft Office, they generally provide 80% or so of the functionality, which is the stuff people actually use.
Their latest offering is a web meeting capability they are calling Zoho Meeting. The video below provides an intro.
They've kindly included me in the private beta which activates tomorrow, so I should be able to report back soon. As someone that has used Vyew for running web meetings for about 6 months, it'll be interesting to see how they compare as I've a good opinion of Vyew. However, based on the programme, it does look like Zoho should have the edge though because they are offering free recording and downloading of the web meeting, as well as the ability to embed the meeting "player" anywhere. Moreover, attendees will be able to choose from an Active X, or Java or Flash player.
The thresher wine coupon virus is BACK! Thursday, March 22, 2007
They say that a virus is rarely eradicated but that it simply goes dormant until it's almost forgotten and then strikes!
Well, maybe the Directors at Threshers some several months on and after having finally gotten the management accounts for December produced and circulated (sorry, small accountancy jibe which operates like a dog whistle for the Dennis Howlett's of the world) have realised what a fantastic success the unplanned Christmas voucher was.
I say this because it's back and for a limited time only. You can download the voucher here
As Hugh says
The Stormhoek-Thresher Coupon 2.0.
40% Off any wine in any Thresher store for the next week [N.B. Thresher's is the the largest specialist wine retailer in the UK].
We did Version 1.0 last Christmas, and generated £15 million of sales for Thresher, one of our big clients. Not to mention, it made the national news. So now that Easter has come along...
Unlike last time time, however we put a little Stormhoek branding on the top. That's the shameless advertising hack in me etc.
Interestingly, Stormhoek have again made no demands on the beneficiaries to supply their details to Stormhoek to get the offer, albeit they might get the details from Threshers in due course. What a contrast to most web offers that demand huge amounts of data first even to try a service. This is clearly an evil "Hugh" plan that conceals immense cunning!
I do wonder if it will be as successful though. Reason being that this time it's going to be less newsworthy primarily because it'll be fairly evident this one is company endorsed. Moreover, some people will have figured out that the vouchers generally brought Threshers into line with the Supermarkets rather than being at a huge discount. You may also spot that it's on wine this time, whereas last time it also include champagne!
I am not a Twitter user, nor do I particularly expect to become one since I don't actually comprehend who would want to monitor my regular updates on "What am I doing now?". Moreover, I don't have a particular fascination with monitoring what someone else is doing (unless of course they are working with/for me). Heaven forbid that my wife and I were to exchange details of our activities via Twitter - it's bad enough getting the daily summary ;-)
So, imagine my amazement when I had a glance at Twittervision, which was created by David Troy using Ruby on Rails in 4 hours, and was momentarily transfixed.
Quite simply, it's a real-time display of Twitter messages that are displayed on an interactive Google Map, which zooms to the location declared on the message. Now, I don't know any of the people whose messages where flashing up so there was no personal interest element here. Yet it was simply astonishing to see the volume of messages and their geographic dispersal flashing up as the graph zoomed round the world, not to mention the nature of the short "thought clips" from people around the World.
This will sound crazy but it was as if I was looking down from space and randomly reading the minds of people around the world. Different languages, time zones, interests, relative degrees of importance. It reminded me of a number of films where the star could listen in on peoples thought eg "What Women Want" with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
But then I would blink and realise that these people were publicly declaring what they were doing to anyone that happened to be listening (now also watching). No concern for privacy or preserving their anonymity - especially odd given the debate ranging about personal privacy and identity cards etc in the UK. It was true voyeurism.
But even more surreal was realising that this public declaration was actually being done in "private" i.e. they were emailing/SMS/IM from their phone and doing something which was not discernible or audible to those around them. Imagine doing the same but instead doing it audibly to those around you eg to other passengers on the bus/train/tube or in the street/cafe/bar/restaurant - they'd think you were (even more of) a nutter!
CRM of the future? Service or Intrusion Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Hawkeye tipped me off to this video - we know the technology isn't the barrier, so could it happen?
Hurrah - Google Reader is working again Monday, March 19, 2007
I mentioned that my Google Reader seemed broken on firefox, albeit the conditions were very specific.
Well two good pieces of news
1. My Google Reader is working again.
I found the "guilty party" - it seemed to be an add-in called Webcards.
My method was to disable all Firefox add-ins and then restart Firefox. Google Reader started working again. I then enabled the add-ins back one-by-one with restarts of Firefox each time. I left had left Webcards till last for some sub-conscious reason.
Google Reader worked fine right up until Webcards was enabled, then stopped. I disabled Webcards, restarted and Google Reader resumed working.
This would also explain why only a few people had experienced the issue with Google Reader including Sam Sethi, who I know has used the Webcards add-in in the recent past and may still be.
Meantime, if Andy Mitchell of Webcards is reading, perhaps you could have a look too.
2. Google Reader support is excellent
After posting about my problem on this blog, a Google Reader engineer got in touch via the comments within a few hours and exchanged suggestions about investigating the issue.
AND ON A SATURDAY. That is impressive.
This is an astonishing story. What is the "least awful" procedure that could be adopted?
Seth Godin makes some interesting observations about seeking and taking funding.
Here are a bunch of conditions that you ought to take seriously before you invest the time and the energy to track down outside money for your great idea:
2. Investors want you to sell out. As soon as possible. For as much as possible. They have no desire to own part of your company forever.
3. Investors want to invest in a project that's tested. If you can't make it work in the 'small', why do you think it'll work when it's big?
4. Being a little better than the market leader is worthless.
5. Investors don't want you to use their money to cover your losses. They want you to build an asset (a patent, an audience, channel relationships) that's actually worth something.
6.Investors want someone to run your company who has successfully run a company before.
7.Investors want to be able to come to one of your board meetings and still make it home in time for dinner.
8.VCs like curves more than they like cliffs.
9.There are actually very very few business problems that can be solved with money.
10. You will probably have to replace many of your employees if you raise money from someone.
11.VCs understand that being the best in the world (#1) is the place with the biggest rewards, so it's unlikely they will settle for any performance (even a profitable one) that puts you in second or third place.
12.VCs are very smart and very connected, but they're smart enough to know that their connections and their insights can't fix a broken business.
13. Investors are very focused on the company, not you. They're not interested in having you take out your original investment or paying you a large salary as profits go up.
14.Business plans are bogus. The act of writing one is critical, but no one is going to read more than three pages of what you write before they make a decision.
15.The companies that VCs most want to invest in are the companies that don't need their investment to survive.
I don't agree with 10. 14 is mostly true. 6 is a preference just because it should reduce the number of mistakes likely to be made due to inexperience. As for 7, that would be lovely.
Gapminder World joins the Google stable Saturday, March 17, 2007
It appears that Google has acquired Gapminder according to some reports. It provides an excellent rendering/charting tool to display a pre-canned set of data combinations.
Each of the dimension may be changed and hence many relationships examined. In the picture I am displaying population size via the blob size, and charting internet adoption v income per capita. What isn't displayed is that you can play this chart through a timeline of years to see how the situation has changed.
I'm guessing that at some point Google will make it possible to load one's own data sets up to the tool, in similar fashion to google spreadsheets etc. That will be awesome.
No idea what's causing this but Google Reader is broken on my PC and has been since Monday. More specifically
- it's only broken on my laptop (Desktop is fine); AND
- when using Firefox (IE7 is fine); AND
- when using my main google account (still operates on a secondary account)
ie it still works on my laptop for my secondary account in Firefox but not for my main account; yet my main account still works on my laptop under IE7
Quite simply, I log in and the header appears, after which it gets stuck on the "Loading" image.
After checking Google Reader forums it appears I'm not alone, but it's evidently not the account or the browser or the laptop individually but only in combination. It's irritating because I've stopped using IE7, having converted to Firefox initially for it's recovery feature. So now I'm having to use two browsers.
Any ideas how to fix it?
I took sometime out yesterday to attend Battersea Art Fair with my wife, which is held in Battersea Park London.
As we walked round the stands, I was reminded of my conversation with Paul Lomax, when he'd mentioned to me that his focus groups had identified people would allocate about 5 seconds to decide if they liked a website.
It struck me that artists have it tougher than website owners in attention terms. We spent 90 minutes at the show, in which time we reportedly saw about 4,000 images. Many of the stands didn't appeal to our taste and so we literally cast our eye over the inventory and continued walking. Those pictures that did captivate us held our interest much longer and for a few we deliberated a purchase.
More significantly, I suspect that the conversion ratios described in the SWSX slide decks are better for websites than for many artists.
This is completely off topic - but Red Nose Day has become one of the biggest charity fund raisers in the UK and the whole country pretty much joins in.
Peter Kay is one of the truly brilliant comedians in the UK today. Last night he wrote, directed and performed in this excellent rendition of the Proclaimer's track "Gonna Be", which is raising money for Comic Relief. Please donate to Comic Relief if you enjoy it.
I particularly liked it because it reminded me of a close friend's wedding in a castle in Scotland where this was played at the service!
So was this the moment that Tony Blair launched his new entertainment career? Last night Tony Blair did a comedy sketch with the excellent Catherine Tate playing her "Lauren" schoolgirl character, in aid of Red Nose Day.
Duh, maybe we got it wrong - US Congressman Friday, March 16, 2007
If you've read this blog before you'll have seen my rants and fury about the US Online Gambling legislation.
Well, it seems as if either a "light" has gone on; or the US gaming industry has moved faster to catch up with international competition than was anticipated; or the banks simply hate the legislation because of the litigation it exposes them to.
Adotas reports that
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, who chairs the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, is now considering repealing the bill. On Wednesday, Steven Adamske, a spokesman for the lawmaker, said, “Chairman Frank is considering legislation.”
He has not drafted a bill nor have there been any formal actions towards the repeal.
Yet last year, Frank stated, “Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol. It won’t work for gambling,”The legislation updated former ambiguous gaming laws to state that most gambling online is illegal, except for state run lotteries and horse-racing.
Disclaimer - I have no investment in gaming companies; I do have an interest in fairness.
This video makes you think hard about lots of things - trouble is the computer may soon think about them faster than all us combined.
Don't know if all the facts are correct, but even mostly right is thought provoking. It's also very well delivered.
I recently wrote about Sellaband who presented at Minibar in London. The site aims to raise $50k in funding for band to produce an album and investors get to share in the revenues from some of the tracks. It looked to be a lousy bet on the bands given the restricted nature of the returns. Consequently it was interesting to see a story in one of the free London papers yesterday that one band had successfully raised the money from fans.
David kindly left a blog comment pointing me in the direction of Slicethepie which he noted was launching soon and would address the issues I'd raised. Great, thought I, I'll take a look.
Sadly, this is all I was able to learn!
Whilst I understand the principle of the "teaser", people give a web site 5 seconds to captivate them after which they hit the back button, something Paul Lomax and I discussed yesterday. So why make it harder? Simply show me up front there is something of value here, even if it simply a description of what they are going to do.
Secondly there are no contact details or information about who is involved, yet they want me to give my email address to them - for all I know it could be a spam harvester.
Finally, given there isn't much on the page, you'd have thought they would get the address bar title right and correctly spell the site name rather than "sliethepie".
Oh, well. I suppose it is pre-launch.
This is an excellent idea
Company founders spent six minutes with each VC - three to pitch them and three for feedback - as part of EntrepreneurshipWeek USA, a first-time national effort sponsored by hundreds of organizations to encourage entrepreneurialism in the United States.I was chatting on skype to Sam Sethi (vecosys and formerly techcrunch uk) tonight and commenting that this is exactly what we need in the UK. Having been to the first three Open Coffee meetups, 80% of the entrepreneurs I meet are looking for funding. You may not be surprised by this, but Open Coffee was seemingly set up just as a place for entrepreneurs to hang out with each other rather than being either a networking event or a chance for "talent to meet money". Unfortunately the format of the event means that the Investors are indistinguishable in the scrum of this very popular event and aren't "famous" faces that every entrepreneur would recognise.
I had mistakenly believed that Imperial College Entrepreneurs would implement something like this when it was set up, but sadly not as yet.
Personally, I'd be very happy to participate in such an event.
Trouble is, who else do you go into business with? Or am I simply using to wide a definition of friends?
Friends may not do what you need them to do.
Friends may not know what they CAN do, so they overinflate their value.
Friends may take liberties that strangers wouldn’t.
Friends may not work as hard as strangers.
Friends may not listen.
Free text messaging from txtdrop Thursday, March 15, 2007
I am still looking for the catch with this service that I found today called txtdrop which apparently lets you send free text messages domestically and internationally.
The main apparent challenge with the service is being able to name the network you are sending the text message to - I have no idea which service my colleagues/friends are using. Nor does the site explain what the consequence is of choosing the wrong network. Will it fail to be delivered - will I have to ring up to find out if they received the message?
The other challenge is that you have to type in the mobile number of the person you are texting - of course, you may say, that's obvious. Hmmm, but I bet you don't do that on your mobile because they are all saved under the person's name. Funnily enough I had lunch with Paul Lomax today and we talked about this very point i.e. we actually don't know the numbers of most people we speak to as they are saved on our phone.
Having looked at the company operating it, who offer a commercial bulk SMS service, it may be the case that they anticipate the volumes will be trivial in amongst the deals they have with carriers around the globe. Funny, Threshers thought the same about their vouchers. Maybe you should text your friends via this service and let them know!
The numbers behind web apps laid bare Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Read/Write Web has a write up on a seminar at SWSX entitled "Barenaked App: The Figures Behind the Top Web Apps", which looked at 5 web applications and what it took to build and release those products.
...the focus was very much around the financial costs to build and deploy these web applications (as opposed to elements like lines of code or revenue). It also touched on what it costs in monthly maintenance. Here is an overview of the data they shared:
- DropSend: Build $48,012 / Monthly $3,625
- Freshbooks Build $20,000 / Monthly $46,000
- Maya's Mom: Build $70,000 / Monthly $30,000
- Mobissimo: Build $60,000 / Monthly $150,000
- Wesabe: Build $200,000 / Monthly: $3,000
One other interesting thing shared was that FreshBooks cost $430k total to build and maintain, until they reached break even ($140k of those expenses went to marketing).The entire set of slides are online at www.carsonified.com/sxsw.pdf
The challenge with comparing these numbers that it several cases the cost associated to development is reported as zero - in these the instances the founders had coded the site and so attributed no value to their time. Clearly had a "salary" foregone number been included, these numbers would be more comparable. Nonetheless, it provides a useful reminder that the entry costs have dropped considerably, but also that the story doesn't end there and more investment is invariably required to grow the venture.
Facebook is still motoring Monday, March 12, 2007
Kulveer Taggar provides an interesting summary of a talk Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook co-founder, on the business that included:
1) the biggest growth demographic is 25-34
2) there is big growth in the 50+ age group
3) facebook serves 70,000 photos a second. A SECOND.
4) they have 700m news stories generated (per month I think)
5) they are adding *half a million* new users each week, which should mean 50 million users by the end of the year
6) they are guesstimating they have 1/10th the number of search queries Google does worldwide internally on facebook
7) over half of their users log in daily (compare to say, 15% ish for MySpace, if they're lucky)
8) 1% of all internet time is spent on facebook
9) At any given time, there are maybe 1-2 million people online, that's larger than most US cities
This is a remarkable internet titan but which is still derided for not having sold out when it "had the chance". Yet, it's hard to believe that an internet property like this wouldn't command a staggering sale price.
Harjeet Taggar of Boso (stands for buy or sell online) describes the lessons they learnt as a startup going through the Y Combinator "trial by investor". Interesting read, albeit it's not an unfamiliar message.
Completely off subject, but the cricket World Cup has kicked off in the West Indies. Thoroughly expect England to get murdered but it's going to be a great tournament to watch. Don't forget you can keep up with ball-by-ball commentary and 3d avatar replays on Cricinfo if you can't remain glued to a TV set. However, you obviously can't just stay at home to watch this - nah, think I'll head up to Lords to watch it in the Members Lounge. Wonder if I can persuade them to install wireless internet.........
Paul Lomax has an excellen post re the Online Publishers Association London 2007 Forum last week (8th March). He has included the key points from one of his favourite talks given by Peter Horan, CEO of IAC (aka Ask.com) on the subject of what he calls Intent Driven Media. The talk covers the impact of search on media, explains how the first five seconds of a user’s visit are crucial, suggests five corner-stones of successful content and finished on some great tips on monitisation.
Pump and dump - a guide to share trading tips Friday, March 09, 2007
Apparently criminals are estimated to make £500m profit on pump & dump schemes each year.
Of an estimated 100m spam messages per week, share scams were 25% of this.
A study by the Office of Fair Trading found about 90,000 Brits lost an average of £5,660 on such scams.
In case you are unfamiliar with how it works, spammers buy stocks with a low share price (few cents per share), usually on small USA exchanges. They then spam people with news which is "guaranteed" to drive the share price up & then sell as victims drive the share price up.
Of course, this self fulfilling prophesy does indeed show a share price rise in the stock subsequent to the spam emails, before it "corrects". So some people believe they were just unlucky and acted too slow on the unprompted share tip from the complete stranger that had kindly alerted them to this guaranteed winner!
The practice of "pump and dump" should not be confused with the issue of a broker research analyst's note to their client base + prospects re how a stock is seriously undervalued and clients should buy it, which is completely different. :-)
Don Dodge who is a Microsoft employee in a recent post, commented that:
If you suggest that Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Ebay or Amazon are going to be your exit route when talking to a VC, you are very likely to get a weary sigh as your credibility gets its' coat. It is very rare for this to occur and rarer that an obscene price is paid. Consequently, I'd advise you to try to think up something more original.
"Microsoft acquired 14 companies in 2005 and another 19 companies in 2006. At Microsoft we try to find the best startups early in the game and acquire them for reasonable prices. The average acquisition price was around $30M. There were some that were significantly more than that, but on average we try to stay in our sweet spot."
10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed Thursday, March 08, 2007
Steve Pavlina has an interesting post entitled "10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed". Don't agree with all of it but one important point is worth re-enforcing
1. Selling to the wrong people.
I've talked about this before - you can waste much time chasing down the "wrong" sales prospects i.e. people who will never buy for whatever reason.
But as important is Steve's point on "partners":
Just because someone is interested in doing business with you doesn’t mean you should accept. In my first year in business, I probably said yes to at least 50% of the people who approached me with a potential business relationship. I wasted a lot of time pursuing deals that were too much of a stretch to begin with. I accepted lunch invitations from random business people who just wanted to “see if there’s a way we could do something together.” Virtually none of them made me a dime. If you think a meeting is pointless, it probably is. Don’t network with random people just because you think you’re supposed to network. Today I accept such invitations less than 1/10 as often. If an offer doesn’t excite me right away, I usually decline or ignore it. Most relationships simply aren’t worth pursuing. Learn to say no to the weak opportunities so you have the capacity to say yes to the golden opportunities.
It's very easy to fill you day with meetings. You need to consider each one to say is it likely that this meeting will advance my business. Sure, serendipity can play a part and I set aside time for these at events like OpenCoffee. However, if you want to "explore", do it in a phone/skype call which is far more efficient or better yet agree to meet up at something like OpenCoffee so that you can do a 10-15 min to open a discussion - if there's potential emerging then proceed, if not then drop it fast but always on good terms.
Perversely, if you look at VC stats, then as an industry we have to do 10 business reviews for every one investment. That appears to be a lot of unproductive meetings in hindsight, albeit I confess that I normally learn something from everyone of them, even if it just relates to fine tuning my filter.
This is a helpful introduction to venture capital for those unfamiliar.
If you read this blog more than once (apparently someone has), you'll have realised I am fascinated and passionate about markets and market mechanisms, amongst other things. So whenever someone at OpenCoffee starts to outline a venture that is markets related I confess to taking a keen interest in understanding how they intend to operate the market.
Last week I met with the founder of autoedbid, which is an excellent business that operates a reverse auction for the sale of new cars. Quite simply, you publish the car specification and the maximum price you commit to pay, then let car dealers fight it out for your business by competitively bidding down the price they are willing to sell you the car for. Autobid operates a "no win, no fee" revenue and has 700 UK dealers signed up.
Dealers submit their bids anonymously thereby protecting their reputation - only the buyer gets to find out who the successful dealer was and the identity of other bidders remains secret. Dealers are motivated to use this service as it enables them to quietly shift stock to meet quotas and earn improve terms. Buyers are motivated to use the service simply getting a better deal and without the pressure sell they might get in a dealership - of course, the buyer has to make a commitment when opening the auction; it's not a play thing, so take care.
This market simply could not exist in any workable fashion without the internet.
Today I came across Parkatmyhouse, which is an online market for parking spaces, the founder of which is an OpenCoffee member. People willing to rent out their driveways/parking space post a listing including a price and details of when the space is available.
People looking for a space can then search locations to identify listings or can post a "want" listing if no suitable ones are presently showing. Spaces are shown in context on google maps.
Presently there is no price negotiation facility I could locate on the site, nor is there any price history data (the site is fairly recent) of advertised spaces or transactions done on the site, to help participants gauge what to pay/charge. I think both of these would help.
Whilst this market could exist in the classified ads section, the fact that it didn't shows two things
- people can identify new opportunities for markets which subsequently will appear obvious, and achieve rapid takeover thereafter
- the internet democratises markets and can sustain markets that would otherwise struggle to get traction because there would be too much friction/aggro to participate in
As "testament" to its' listening credentials especially when it's from their core financial supporters, not to mention sniffing a tax raising opportunity, Ed Balls, the Economic Secretary to the UK Treasury, has announced a review into the tax treatment applied to private equity funds, a move which could add billions to Government coffers, at a time when corporate tax revenues are falling.
It is to investigate the growing use of so-called "shareholder loans" in highly leveraged structures normally put in place by private equity funds. In essence, Private Equity Funds usually invest only a small amount as direct equity in a company (5% or so of the total finance), with the vast majority provided as debt. The financing cost of the debt incurred by the company is tax deductible, unlike dividend payments.
Whilst the structures are complex, in essence a Private Equity fund will direct 95% of the total investment as equity in offshore Special Purpose Vehicle ("SPV") and this will then recycled back as debt to the company. The interest payments made will be reduce the companies profits and hence their corporate tax bill in the UK, but the interest income earned by the SPV will not be taxed in the UK - a tax efficiency which is a key reason for the fall in corporation tax revenues.
For the Private Equity industry it may kick the whole issue into the "long grass" for many months by which time the Trade Unions may have found a new victim for their rants. However, this is more likely to be a deferral of the matter rather than an end, since the tax take opportunity will be too juicy for the Government to ignore, particularly as it will be perceived as a victimless tax i.e. no votes lost.
However, if these loans are taxed differently, then private equity returns will fall and the attraction of moving offshore increased. Moreover, the beneficiaries of private equity investments such as pension funds will once again be clobbered, having already seen the Labour Government plunder £100bn from pension funds on changing the treatment of dividend tax credits in 1997 - an ironic situation given that the Trade Unions also bemoan the perilous state of pension funds and the impact on their members.
Balls has apparently confirmed that there are no plans to change the principle of the tax-deductibility of interest, as this is something open to all investors, not simply private equity.
Sony has launched a "me too" online community for its Playstation 3, accessed via the machine. Called "Home", the BBC has a report on it here.
Picture from BBC - trendy, social, gamers interacting inside "Home" - no, really
Gamers will be able to meet, chat and share content inside the 3D world, not to mention buy stuff for their avatar, in similar fashion to Second Life!
Sony said "This is not just about Sony brands and Sony games - it's a much wider network of connected spaces"
Connecting to other players is not new for gaming - multiplayers games are already well established and XBox 360 already allows players to connect online. Neither is the creation of an online persona with possessions. However, I understand that the ability for players to "create" stuff of their own in the environment is a new development (and revenue source for Sony!)
This is clearly one example of a "brand" experience to which people will undoubtedly connect, which I debated the other day. Moreover, this sort of mainstream headline with the associated revenues, will certainly attract the attention of other brands and accelerate the numbers hoping to emulate the model.
Directory of where to discover Music Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Read/Write Web is a blog I look forward to reading - good writing and interesting content. I was particularly interested in a post today on music discovery, having spent a chunk of the last few months reviewing the online music segment for a project we are involved with (correct - outside of our usual stomping grounds but for reasons that will become clear in due course)
The Music 2.0 Directory lists the following companies in this segment:
- Owl Multimedia
- The Hype Machine
- SeeqPod Music
To these I would have added
The BBC series Dragons Den is an entertainment programme rather than an educational show - it's not the experience that most entrepreneurs will go through when meet investors. Many of the entrepreneurs on the show make it on by virtue of the producers believing that it will produce good TV to put an awful idea/business/entrepreneur in front of investors that are pumped up to be extreme bullies.
I have watched a number of episode, all of which are available online, afte r friends recommended it (believing it to be what I do). Occasionally a few good ideas creep through but very few get funding.
One recent episode I saw featured a rastafarian chef, Levi Roots, seeking funding for his business selling west indian themed spiced sauces. His pitch was tacky - he sang a ditty! He wanted £50k for 20%. Instead he got £50k for 40% following a joint investment from Peter Jones and Richard Farley.
Well, it was announced today (not long after the show was televised) that he has landed Sainsbury's as an account who will sell the sauce at 607 stores in the UK. Presently, it's unclear whether it was the investors involvement or simply from being on the TV show that made the difference though, bearing in mind that it's possible that a Sainsbury's plc buyer may simply have decided to trial it following the free publicity that the show generated for the product.
End of the day, Levi probably doesn't care and as for his investors, well sometimes money simply attracts more money!
Online radio can be a costly exercise. Sunday, March 04, 2007
Fred Wilson has a post here about Internet Radio Royalties, as they operate in the US.
The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has announced its decision on Internet radio royalty rates, rejecting all of the arguments made by Webcasters and instead adopting the "per play" rate proposal put forth by SoundExchange(a digital music fee collection body created by the RIAA).
RAIN has learned the rates that the Board has decided on, effective retroactively through the beginning of 2006. They are as follows:
2006 $.0008 per performance2007 $.0011 per performance2008 $.0014 per performance2009 $.0018 per performance2010 $.0019 per performance
A "performance" is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 "performances" for each song it plays.
In the UK, each time a piece of music is played to an audience, a royalty payment is due. There are three main bodies that are responsible for collecting royalty fees from radio stations and apportioning the money to their member. They are as follows:
- PRS (Performing Right Society). Body that collects royalties in respect of music played by radio stations for artists and composers. More details at www.prs.co.uk
- PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd). Body that collects royalties in respect of music played by radio stations on behalf of record companies. See www.ppluk.com
- MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society). Body that collects royalties in respect of music played by radio stations, specifically jingles and music used in adverts. See www.mcps.co.uk
Most music radio stations own a 'blanket' licence, that allows them to play whatever music they wish, in return for an annual licence fee (based on audience size and revenue). Broadcast radio rates are up to 5.25% of net advertising revenues. An exception to this is Student Radio which gets a separate licence deal.
To allow the likes of PRS to apportion the revenue, PRS ask each station to return a detailed summary on what was broadcast, via a series of random "sampling periods", where all music played including jingles, advert music, and even the presenter singing, gets logged and returned to PRS for analysis
These arrangements affect online music services like last.fm, pandora and others. Obviously, depending on your service, pay per play could quickly result in a sizeable bill being run up, independent of any revenues you may generate. It is this that could have a material affect on online radio service.
Labels: online radio
VC Confidential advances that entrepreneurs shouldn't get hung up on having 51% in this post as there are more important issues to be concerned with in the early stages of a business.
One of the greatest misperceptions in the early stage entrepreneurial world is that control revolves around maintaining greater than 51% ownership in a firm.
It certainly is the case that this tends to be the thing that entrepreneurs are most passionate about in any funding discussion. And it's understandable if you hold the view that "control" is the most important thing, rather than doing the right deal with the best people to create the greatest capital value down the line.
Lightspeed Ventures have a sobering post on the heights you have to climb to build a business with $50m of revenues if your business models is to rely on advertising revenues.
Phil Wilkinson of Crowdstorm did a good presentation at FOWA which is reproduced below.
This is Tara Hunt's presentation from Future of Web Apps. Some interesting points, but best of all, the idea of putting the users in charge would blow most company executives away.
Minibar tonight (2 Mar) Friday, March 02, 2007
Tonights Minibar seemed less full for some reason albeit 132 folk were signed up on Meetup. Demos tonight.
From a selfish perspective Minibar is a clear second to Opencoffee because
- too many geeks pushing tech solutions & not businesses at minibar
- its simply too dark & noisy (loud DJ) to network
- people don't go to network
- tech is the focus, not entrepreneurship
Anyway, the usual format of demos operated with the following companies presenting tonight.:
- its provides a platform to provide finance to new bands to help launch themselves & produce their first album
- they advance that labels are risk averse & talent struggles to be heard. Yet some consumers like to discover stuff.
- Sellaband enables passionate "believers" to buy fractions in bands they like/discover up to a max of $50k to fund their recordings. No commitment applies on either side until $50k is reached and then both sides are locked in. Sellaband the organises studio time & recordings.
- The believer's investment buys firstly albums ($10 per unit) which they get delivered - god forbid you invest $1k & end up with loads of CDs..
- The music is then given away by Sellaband on the site to drive traffic & generate ad revenues which is shared between investors & the band.
- So far 2 artists raised have raised the $50k, with 400k of pledges. 7500 investors have signed up & 2500 artists. Page views of several hundred thousand have resulted.
- artists get their own promo page with embedded player. Consumers hear music for free but can choose to invest.
- However, here's were the deal goes sour. Investors only get rights to the ad revenues on sellaband. Ooops. So my investment gets them the necessary push and they go onto greatness - sorry, you get nothing!
Apologies if I misunderstood the model (I did check with those around me) but what a lousy deal. If my money promotes a band & helps them get big, I want a share to payoff all of the flops I backed.
It's a non profit consortium dedicated to promoting open source and minising risk of using open source.
"Smart personal for smart people". Translated it sounded like a social network site targeted at people searching for casual sex. Can't deny there's probably a market.
Developed by one of the Barcamplondon organisers, Jason, they offer a search engine that geographically divides up search results but their USP is that results are returned as images of the web pages. Search is driven by yahoo results. Whilst some searches might benefit from visuals, the selection seemed to push people towards the best visually stunning site. Their pitch lacked clarity, especially as the first two minutes of five were devoted to talking about their testimonials on other sites.
Still flush from their £500k of funding this week, Sokratis and Walid introduced their site. Their sites provides a trust network for finding recommendations of places to go (bars, restaurants mainly). Using the "neighbour" concept, Trusted Places finds recommendations from people with similar profiles (profile data driven by upfront questionnaire). This isn't trust per se since it actually uses Amazon-like filtering to say people like you, like this. This is different from people whom you know giving you recommendations.
Trusted places look to make money from advertising & sponsorship.
It was great to see Helen Keegan (Swedish Beers & beepmarketing) and Deirdre Molloy (Chinwag) for a long chat. I also saw/spoke with
- Ian Delaney who replaced Deirdre as NMK editor
- Sophie Coudray of Antersite
- Angel at Inkpak
- Jemima of the Guardian Unlimited
- Simon of Bellhope
- Caz of rugbypix.com
It was also good to see one of the co-founders of Last.fm, Martin, coming along.
Well done to Christian for his continued efforts in making this event happen.
I promise to remember and still acknowledge all my old friends, even though I am now an international megastar.
When I say megastar, ok, that's a slight exaggeration. I was mentioned in the Guardian Online in two separate articles today which you can read here
I spent this morning at the inaugural OpenCoffee event which Saul Klein had organised. Designed to be an opportunity for "money" to meet "talent", over 100 people turned up, albeit not many of those were fellow investors.
The Starbucks venue is located inside the Esprit store on Regent St., which doesn't open until 10am, which was the start time for OpenCoffee. The staff clearly had a big shock therefore to see a large crowd gathering outside the store before it opened and an even bigger one to see them all wander directly past them upstairs to Starbucks. I reckon the security guards thought they had a flash mob on their hands!
Whilst there were a few familiar faces, the event attracted many faces I'd not seen before despite my regular attendance at many of the London web scene events. I listened to some great ideas/ventures and shall certainly be following up on several of these. Obviously not all of the businesses I spoke to suited our interests, but as I've reported before the "funding" dating game is about right price and right investor.
The event is scheduled to be held every Thursday at 10am-12pm, albeit when I left at 1pm it was still going strong. I hope that there will be sufficient interest to maintain this frequency as it would be a great shame if the event petered out from insufficient churn of new faces and too few attendees.
My tips for entrepreneurs thinking of attending are
- don't plan to do demos. For a start, there's no free wifi in this Starbucks, but more importantly this is about making initial contact with the "money".
- be prepared to give a short explanation of what you do and what you are looking for
- find out what the investor is looking for - they may not invest in your space or have min investment thresholds that may rule you out.
- acknowledge that other entrepreneurs have come along to speak to investors too, so if there's interest on both sides after say 5 minutes, then get agreement to a follow up and then move onto the other investors. If they aren't interested, it's not necessarily because your idea is lousy or they are "thick" and don't get it. It may be because your venture doesn't fit their investment profile - most times, they will explain this.
- regularly check that the investor understands what you are describing as you are talking
- have a good supply of business cards with you - lots of people ran out today!
- be approachable and initiate conversations with people hovering nearby as well as encouraging people to join your group/discussion
- circulate; it's why you are there and so is everyone else
- you are not in competition for investor money; if the venture is good enough and the price is right you should get funding regardless.
Details of OpenCoffee "members" and future events can be found here.
More coverage of OpenCoffee can be found here at Vecosys and here at the Guardian.
Hurray - Its official from Blogger. I'm not a spam blog Thursday, March 01, 2007
Yes. I'm back online and able to post again.
And only out of action for 7 or so hours since receiving my notice.