Friday, April 27, 2007

World's Greatest LinkedIn Feature - For Them



Not sure how new this is because I don't spend a lot of time on LinkedIn - I am generally equally happy to introduce myself to someone cold as I am to contact a '3rd degree' person.

Spidering Outlook (or webmail) is starting to look like table stakes for any social network save the top tier winners like Facebook. See Techcrunch coverage of Hi5 as an example.
***Update***
Facebook also has a contact spider feature.

I don't have much to say beyond that this feature will rapidly expand LinkedIn signups.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Marketing > Ad Buy + Press Release

Marketing includes more than buying ads and issuing press releases alone.

I just re-recognized this inequality after a (very) brief hiatus and am feeling quite relieved - for the moment, at least.

My favorite blog, Bluehatseo, has an extensive and fantastic tutorial on making money from a videoblog. When I finished reading, it dawned on me that all along I thought that I was reading about marketing, but was really reading about building a product at the same time (highly recommended).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Client Apps - The New New Thing

I wanted to write an epic (for me) blog post because lately, they've been getting a little micro and personal for broad interest and reader-value.This post is all about the future and big Internet trends (!) I think the future is client apps working with web services. Clearly client apps have been around forever - but they are still The Future.

I scored a big victory today because Andy told me that he had added Mattishness to his Bloglines list - and Andy's a busy guy.In light of this development, I was reading Andy's blog and followed a link to Sawickipedia - a few posts down I found a post about new opportunities in ad-supported online music business models - you know, what if advertising came with RealPlayer? ;) And then I thought, what does 'ad-supported music' remind me of? I know - the Kazaa/Gator bundle!

What's so powerful about client apps? Attention - there has been some good punditry around the idea of Attention Markets, including by Alex Iskold. Basically, the Internet is already enormous and seems to be growing faster than it is possible to index; simultaneously, people are getting busier and busier. Net, how is a poor marketer supposed to capture valuable attention these days? Client Apps!

Turns out Alex Iskold put his money where is mouth is and started AdaptiveBlue a Firefox extension that provides contextual information around the stuff you're looking at on web pages - and if that stuff happens to be a product stocked by Amazon, so much the better. AdaptiveBlue gets your attention by living in your browser, they don't have to wait for you to choose to navigate to their comparison shopping site. I think it's genius.

I have previously written about 2 new companies that get your attention by shoving themselves on to your desktop - Orolix a Brazilian social-ISP, and Ripl, a new college network from Seattle.

At this point, I want to pause and address the mindless run-everything-in-your browser crowd. Separate client apps can be written much more elegantly,and you don't have to take my word for it, just read this masterly examination of Meebo. So on a macro level, Microsoft is really killin' it with the Ray Ozzie client app-web service continuum plan.

How To Manage Matt

1. Be my friend, I go to the wall for my friends; if you're not my friend - hey, human overpopulation is a very real danger facing the Earth.

2. Don't try to limit or 'manage' the information flow - I will take what you say at face value and just think that you have a weak grasp of the issues.

3. Last, but not least: I take a portfolio management approach to my life and work, where I tend to pile on the winners and cull the losers, so if you want me to allocate energy to a task, make sure I think it's one of the winners.

Together, we can accomplish anything!!!

Ad Type Context From The Economist

"Yet Google's latest deals contain a hint of weakness. Henry Blodget of Cherry Hill Research, a consultancy, notes that in its original business of placing text advertisements on its own search pages, Google makes profit margins of about 60%. In its more recent business of placing advertisements on web pages belonging to other people, such as bloggers, its profit margins are 10-20%, because it is harder to make the advertisements as relevant to the audience and it must share the resulting revenues. Display advertising also offers lower returns."


http://economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9040227



Amateur media, like blogs, and professional media, like The Economist, provide great symbiotic context for each other.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Investment Library Snapshot

6 Books that I have read recently and recommend highly:

50 years on wall streetmisbehavior of marketsmisbehavior of markets

warren buffet speaksmy life as a quantinside the house of money

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Good Deal Description

A good deal description basically consists of:

1. Why this particular product is better than other competing products
2. Why this price is better than the usual price for this particular product
3. Maybe a few descriptive or specification highlights - not just the whole laundry list cut and pasted.

I think this short one randomly pulled off Fatwallet is pretty good, even while being relatively short:

Fujifilm FinePix F20 6.3MP Digital Camera $138.93 Shipped

Posted in Electronics by K. Sebring Thursday, April 12th 2007 | No Comments | Email Story

Amazon has a good deal available on the FujiFilm Finepix F20 6.3MP digital camera
at just $138.93 with free super saver shipping.
A $30.00 rebate for this item is mentioned in this Hot Deal thread, but it is apparently not a sure thing.
Even without the rebate, this is a good price on this camera, which has great ratings with an average of 4.5 stars
from 26 Amazon shoppers.

Features include a 6.3MP CCD, 3X optical zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD display,
i-Flash intelligent flash system, dual shooting mode, and a NP-70 rechargeable battery with charger.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Judys Book Is Hiring

Judy's Book is looking for a K.A.T.N. Windows developer (bonus points if you are instantly familiar with this acronym).

From time to time when we have been out looking for developers we have asked ourselves whether we should be looking for a more senior, or a more junior person. we often frame this issue as a trade off between the candidate who can jump right in without without adjustment, but is less flexible and the candidate who might need to study up a bit, but is more flexible.

These are valid personal traits to examine - but make a poor hiring 'framework', because there is an implicit assumption of averageness. Many less-experienced people can jump right in and contribute right away, and many more-experienced people are flexible. In a startup, the peaks to climb are high enough that we can't afford anyone not fulfilling both categories.

When Dave put the word out internally, he made sure to emphasize that we want the right person for the money - junior or senior.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

SEO Friendly Page Titles In The NY Times

Last April, The New York Times redesigned their website in a much simpler, more web-friendly way.

Today, reading the Sunday edition online, I noticed that they are now trialling SEO friendly page titles in the Sunday Styles section. Historically, the page title matches the article title, and this still appears to be true for most of the sections, examples here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/world/middleeast/15sunnis.html?ref=world
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/us/15warm.html

However, Styles article page titles are stuffed with keywords, and do not match the article titles, examples here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/fashion/15nite.html?ref=fashion
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/fashion/15anand.html?ref=fashion

I am fairly certain that this is a new experiment because I am positive that I spend just about as much time as anyone, anywhere on nytimes.com, and I am pretty sure I would have noticed earlier.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Savan Kong - Great Designer

My friend Savan just started blogging. Savan is the guy who makes the Redfin site look like they raised fifty-seven million bucks. Unike my lazy ass, Savan got a domain and set up wordpress for his blog.

I'm not sure how long Savan's had his domain but, conveniently, savanrith.com, his first name, was available.
(I looked for mathew.com way back in february '07, but alas, it was already gone, who would have guessed?)

So, basically: great designer, graduated college in like 2 years, and he's entrepreneurial.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Humility, Perspective & Expectation

Seth Levine recently wrote a very nice post on humility that really made me think. For me, humility is inextricably tied up with perspective and expectation.

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to have many amazing experiences in my life already - and if I want to 'market' them, I can make it sound pretty sweet. But when you get a chance to do something cool, it's a good bet that you will get to meet some really impressive people along the way - and they can really help put things in perspective, keep you humble, and most valuably, raise your own internal expectations for yourself.

As an adolescent, I raced sailing dinghies a bit; I have become whatever I am (no name-calling!), Adam Koch, a guy I used to sail with, became a professional kite-boarder complete with videos, Red Bull sponsorship, 'signature' board, etc. Today Valleywag ran a quick bit about how people like Sergey Brin are hot for kiteboarding these days.

Since I work in an Internet startup - an end goal might be to start one (or several) companies of my own, and go big. That's a good goal - but I know that one day Sergey will be rigging up on the beach, turn to a friend and whisper: 'Dude, I think that might be Adam Koch!' Sure keeps me humble.

Here's a great video featuring Adam doing things like hucking off the deck of an aircraft carrier on his kiteboard:

Good At Cashing Checks

A couple of years ago, I got some great advice from an attorney here in Seattle who is a bit of an 'old hand' when it comes to local startups. He had been very successfully involved with the gaming company Wizards of the Coast, of Magic and Pokemon trading card fame. He told me the one thing that stood out for him about Wizards was that they were "really good at cashing checks".

This all sounded a bit homespun to me, but he persisted, and explained that what he meant was that when someone wanted to pay them money, they made the process as friction-free as possible. If you desperately wanted to pay someone, anyone, $7.50, or whatever it cost, for a pocket-size pack of cardboard - Wizards could help you out.

For instance, Blogads sells small banner ads on, of all things, blogs. Having some experience with the product, I think that the ads deliver close to zero value to the buyer, but dammit, Blogads just made things so easy for me. They've got blogs you've heard of, they display prices, it's easy to upload your art, they take credit cards, and so on.

Even if you are not sitting on the next Magic: The Gathering, there is a valuable lesson here. Even a great product can fizzle out if it's too hard to buy, and a sub-standard one can take off if it's made convenient enough.

By the way, the Wizards guys have a new entity - Hidden City Games - hawking a new cardboard product, Clout - and I'm sure they will make a bundle with this one, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gmail Ad Of the Day



Pretty frequently, I get hilarious contextual ads on my gmail sidebar. Today, I got served an especially memorable one. I swear to god the body of my email did not contain what appears to be the 'primary keyword' for this ad.

***UPDATED***
just found an elegant flickr photoset with more of the same

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ripl - Zango Plus Facebook, Boom!



I have a theory for easy business success:

Sketchy always leads the way, so all you have to do is take a sketchy product make it non-sketchy, and you tend to hit the late-now, near-future sweet spot right on the head.

Example? Take Napster (who always wanted to sell, not steal, songs) and turn it into iTunes. Take Classmates (who buy way, way too many banner ads to avoid sketchiness) and turn it into Facebook. Funny about Classmates, Ripl's founders came from there.

Ripl is a new social network bundled with a content - and advertisement - serving client app. This is not worlds away from Gator/Zango/180.
The client app. in a social network context is really cool because it allows for a much richer content sharing experience when compared to a web-only network - plus they can push ads to your desktop (hooray!).
I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, lots of ads are cool - bud.tv is at least as good as UGC videos.

The main reason why I am bullish on Ripl is Mike Crill. You won't find his name on the Ripl site, but Ripl is listed on his site - Atlas Accelerator.
Mike is nominally the CFO, but he generally fills a much larger, getting-things-done role. Mike radiates energy and acumen, and while I haven't yet
had the privilege of working with him, it's definitely something that is on my list.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Win at Landing Pages

As mentioned here previously, I don't know much about many things. One thing that I do know is how a non-technical person can whip up a high-conversion landing page in 10, maybe 5 minutes. This is the kind of project I love - quick enough to get done in one sitting before my ADD sets in.

Here's what you do:

1. Go to Flickr and find a good picture of a hot girl (I know, it's tough work).
2. Open PowerPoint and paste the photo into a slide.
3. Write up whatever offer you are trying to promote in a textbox on the slide.
4. Design it up a little bit.
5. Open something like Paint.NET, paste the PPT slide in and save it as an image.
6. Upload the image to somewhere like Flickr.
7. Open something like Nvu and throw the new image into an html page.
8. Make the whole image link to the desired target, and add a paragraph or so of appropriate text at the bottom of the page.
9. Stick your page up somewhere and point traffic at it.
10. Sit back and watch the visitors convert.

How well can a page like this convert? Lets just say it's well North of whatever you're thinking.

How about a free bonus example? Here's a fun one I whipped up for 'demonstration purposes':

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Couponlooker - Coupon Meta Search

***UPDATE***
As usual, Dave thought the deepest and wrote the most about Couponlooker

We just released a cool new site called Couponlooker that searches all of the top coupon sites and returns results clearly and conveniently. I love how the value prop is so simple and communicable:

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Social Network Hierarchy

Today I found public Friendster pages belonging to 2 of my friends from college. Neither of them has a Facebook page. Both of my friends had visited their Friendster pages in the last week.

This struck me as somewhat uncommon. I am under the impression that generally people in my cohort have at least a Facebook page, and THEN, possibly pages on other social networks.

For people younger than me, it is common to have at least a Myspace page, and then a Facebook page. (Sketchy older people might start with Myspace, too)

Both of my friends with Friendster pages have been members since 2003 - which is about when lots of people were on Friendster - but now they have started coming back.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Everything's An Execution Play



I pride myself on being someone who has a lot of ideas.

As I gain more and more experience in the startup world I have begun to realize that everything is an execution play - and that the right team can build a successful business from any reasonable idea. After all, the bottled water industry is huge - so why couldn't you sell ice to Nunavut?

Ideas start to seem cheap and, occasionally, this gets me down. I worry that I don't have as many good ideas as I used to, because they don't seem so important.

I am going to make a renewed effort to think up new ideas and jot them down.

So to round up, the idea part isn't that hard, and I am really starting to learn how to execute well at Judy's Book, what's missing is the bridge between. I need to get good at sparking a good idea into something slightly larger, involving a couple more people, to then be 'executed' - and I don't mean taken out and shot, either.

After that, as Alex Hopmann says, Step 3: Profit!

StumbleUpon . . . Ads!

Here is today's funny business idea from Matt: StumbleUpon . . . Ads.

StumbleUpon is an awesome idea and product where you 'stumble' from one site to the next based on your own history of preferences and the preferences of like-minded others. StumbleUpon has a great business model where every so often in your sequential click stream you stumble upon a paid-inclusion site. Stumbleupon sells these at paid placements "starting at 5 cents per visitor".

But how much funnier would it be if every webpage that you stumbled upon was a pay per click ad served up by a third party ad-network? But wait, there's more! There is already a well-proven, analogous business model: the direct-nav page full of ads, excuse me, search results, useful links, etc. all of which lead to, wait for it, another page of ads, and another, and maybe another, too.

Relatedly, a number of bloggers, like Charlie O'Donnell, post somewhat funny 'free business ideas' periodically. Why is it that, these 'free business ideas' aren't usually any longer shots than, say, that blogger's day job, or that other company that just raised a round of 'smart money'?

Basic Economic Principles For Startups, Part CI

Today's post covers Opportunity Cost. This concept can be treacherous because everyone has heard of it and thinks they have a working understanding, but in reality, very few people do.

Economics was my other concentration at university and the arcane corners of the discipline deeply fascinates me to this day.

Most business-people, and people in business, conflate 'economics' and 'business' - this is a falsehood. Business is all about doing More, full stop. Economics is all about doing More, with Less.

Which brings me to Opportunity Cost. Most people have a vague idea that Opportunity Cost is roughly a $5 word for trade-offs, which is sort of right. Like many startups, Judy's Book is a solid group of smart people who work hard. Again, like many startups, there is a ton to accomplish. Every project that our development team works on is very important. Sometimes, some people call these things 'need-to-haves'. All these need-to-haves can get pretty hairy and dain bramage-y, but we know that we just have to suck it up and work extra hard to jump the trade-off curve and get it all done.

Except you can't - that project that ate up 3 people's time for a month? Well, they got some really important stuff done, but what could they have done instead? Thanks to pre-existing code libraries, developer kits, frameworks, and such - those 3 people could likely have built a whole new separate site that probably wasn't too shabby. What about that other month-long project? Maybe we could have had a third site, too. Maybe we could have accomplished something else really great, instead. All those permutations are rolled in to the Opportunity Cost.

Now, I'm not saying that we ought to have done anything differently, but I am saying that when we stop to take stock and prioritize, we ought to make sure that we deeply evaluate our priorities and long-term goals.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Internet Sketch Quotient (Color-Coded)

Dick Costolo, CEO of Feedburner, recommends color coding your metrics so as not to get bogged down in the details.

I have tried to take his advice to heart:

Recently, for recreational purposes, I generated a list of keywords related to the word "fiancee". Now, when I think of that word, I associate it with wholesome concepts like marriage, settling down, responsibility, commitment, etc. But since the Internet Sketch Quotient is High, each of the top 5, and 9 of the top 10 related search queries by search volume were focused around Visa for Mail-Order, or Near-Mail-Order Brides from developing countries. These top 10 results accounted for 83% of total search volume and visa queries dominated the rest of the list as well. Coded by Color - I call that Orange, at least: