Friday, September 28, 2007

Ever Heard Of Ask Maps?

I hadn't either until yesterday. I suppose this shows why:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Any Post That Leads With Don Johnson

. . . deserves to be promoted as widely as possible (CLICK HERE!). This is one reason I like working for Kevin - he's got a great sense of humor. I have written before that you should always try to work for someone smarter - a strong corollary is that a great sense of humor is usually a by-product of a more general brilliance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RealSelf Gets Some Coverage

John Cook mentioned new Seattle startup RealSelf in his 'Baby Bartons' post today.

RealSelf is in a great place at a great time - right in the wheelhouse of the current craze for women's content, social networking, shopping, and advertising - like Sugar and Glam - combined with the sky-high margins of anti-aging and wellness products. Plus, my friend Eric works there, and is brilliant.

As an aside, I continue to be surprised that John Cook hasn't picked up blist yet :)

This Is An Experiment - Please Help

You can even watch the 30 second video if you want - it's mostly a clip from Entourage:

Thank you very, very much!

MacArthur Genius Grants 2007

The MacArthur Foundation just named its list of grantees for 2007. This is pretty much the coolest award that a person can win - maybe a Nobel or Fields Medal is right up there, too - but looking down the MacArthur list is typically more interesting and definitely diverse. For the technology audience, the most interesting grantee this year is also this year's youngest: Saul Griffith of Squid Labs. Saul's projects are Interesting, Cool, and Useful - all at the same time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Valuing Opportunity Cost

Kevin Merritt of blist has an important post up about valuing opportunity cost in a startup. Kevin basically nails what is missing from the 'raise lots of money' vs. 'don't raise money', Web 2.0, 'who needs venture capitalists' blog topic.

blist is, incidentally, hiring great engineers.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I just got this email from a nice guy named Isaac Garcia:

I don't know you but your comment on TC today was classic:

# mathew johnson
September 21st, 2007 at 2:50 pm
i just hope google comes out with an api that lets people read my email -
that would be awesome - maybe let 3rd parties 'parse' my emails to show me
ads or something.

It's perfect.

Isaac Garcia

Thank you, Isaac, the least I can give you is a link.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NewsTrust - Huge Value Add

NewsTrust is a fairly new and important company/organization/force for good. Bold-face names are involved (Dan Gillmor, Craig Newmark, Howard Rheingold) – and my friend Kaizar works there.

NewsTrust describes the idea like this:

“The free website features daily feeds of quality news and opinions, which are carefully rated by our members, using our unique review tools. We rate the news based on quality, not just popularity. NewsTrust reviewers evaluate each article against core journalistic principles such as fairness, evidence, sourcing and context.”

I like NewsTrust, and receive news digests in my email – here’s where I think they need to go from here: NewsTrust already does a great job pulling together news coverage, and filtering it through a strong community vetting and fact-checking process – the input piece – but then the results are put in front of me – and I already agree! To keep the community active and contributing, NewsTrust needs to broadcast their value-add out to people who have been convinced not to think critically about news coverage spun by politicians – and who are being lied to effectively by government, and interest groups, and business.

One way NewsTrust could communicate out really effectively would be to formally partner with main stream media outlets, and act as ‘out-sourced’ fact checkers. Many publications are losing the budgets to do this work in-house – and might appreciate the help!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LinkedIn: Best Humor Site?

I just never get tired of all the funny tidbits I find on LinkedIn. I have previously posted about the number of LinkedIn users who describe themselves as a 'visionary'. Today's funny tidbit is a funny job title (for some reason, I get a lot of organic traffic for variations on 'funny job titles') from a new second degree contact of mine (did I blur that enough??). I actually do think that delighting your customers is vitally important, but nonetheless, it is a little bit funny to have it in your title. Enjoy:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Crunchbase: Honestly?

Do people give up just anything on a web form? Honestly? Tip of the day: Most of the time when a form (on- or off-line) asks for your SSN - you don't really have to fill that part out. On a side note: I think I must have just found the "lever" that you pull for more funding!

The Listphile File

Listphile was covered in Techcrunch for the first time last week. As I often do, I started digging to learn more:

This is the guy who started Listphile (Go Bruno!):

This is the developer he hired to build it:

This is the use-case that they originally released quietly back in June:

This is their blog:

Friday, September 14, 2007

VC Story Of The Day: Tats

I give this story from Xconomy, one of my new favorite sites, a great big "F--- Yeah!": Extreme VC

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bahamas, Tax Shelters, IKEA

A friend of mine from college just took a new job at an environmental consulting firm in the Bahamas (Nice!). Curious, I checked out the Cape Systems Ltd. website and found that they have an intriguing ownership structure whereby Cape Systems, a for-profit business, is a wholly owned subsidiary of a non-profit organization. Not only does the profit function as part of the organization’s fund-raising – the business itself is designed to complement the program activities of the non-profit parent.

Now I ain’t the smartest man in the world - but I am guessing that the ‘numbers’ might pencil out for a tax-exempt parent to give away 5% of assets annually (in the U.S.) when compared to a standalone corporation paying taxes.
Which leads me to my second favorite Economist article ever: the labyrinthine (byzantine?) ownership structure of IKEA.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Best Fundraising Post - Venture Hacks

I am pretty sure that this is the best blog post about fundraising that I have come across - courtesy of Venture Hacks - fresh . . .
Hack: Create a market for your shares

Ad Of The Day: The Forgotten Commodity

This ad from my Yahoo Mail was confusing enough that I clicked on it. Confusion is an underappreciated advertising strategy, I don't like to be confused, so I clicked through to un-confuse myself. Was the ad trying to say that 'options' were a commodity? I wouldn't put that past an online trading ad. As an aside, I am not sure this ad text would pass Google's quality guidelines . . .

Here is the landing page:

It's extremely long and wordy, isn't it? This page definitely doesn't fit with traditional thinking on landing page conversion - but snake oil can be a hard sell, so maybe this in-depth 'education' leads to better conversion in this case.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

blist - two nice posts

Here are two nice, recent posts about blist:

This one from Jordan Mitchell, founder of Others Online:

And this one from Todd Sawicki, the marketing expert:

Two more datapoints support the theory that very smart people think Kevin is very smart.

Ad Of The Day:

What did I write in my Gmail???

Mathew Johnson - Environmentalist

One thing I am is an environmentalist:

I graduated from Brown in 2002 in economics with some substantial work in both environmental and Middle Eastern studies. While at Brown, I studied abroad in Cairo where I studied Arabic, and interned at PERC, an environmental think tank in Montana. I didn’t know beforehand that PERC is much too conservative for my politics, but all the same they have some smart people and some good ideas.

After I graduated, I studied marine biology for a semester in Southern California before starting work with a PERC alum who had recently set up his own water rights and resources consulting firm in Wyoming – Westwater Research. At Westwater I did some interesting work, which included writing a monthly stock market column for Global Water Intelligence and meeting some interesting folks at Aqua International Partners – William K. Reilly’s water focused OPIC fund.

After a year in Wyoming, I moved home to Seattle to work as an analyst at Light Green Advisors, a sustainable asset manager. I was at Light Green for almost a year before getting swept up into Seattle’s venture-backed technology community where I have been working in business development and marketing for the last 2 years and change, first at a company called Judy’s Book, and more recently at an exciting new company called blist.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Entrepreneurship Anecdote By Kevin Merritt

Kevin posted a great anecdote from his own experience as an entrepreneur about sticking to your guns and focusing on the right delivery method for the product you're selling.

I do all my best learning from anecdotes that show rather than tell. If you're thinking of buying a business book, put that on hold and go pick up a copy of Boone for a penny instead. It's a great book and a quick read.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Compete Vs Alexa - Subdomains

The Seattle20 list of high-tech startups in, wait for it . . . Seattle, has just switched over to including Compete stats along with the original Alexa in their simple ranking formula. There is a long tradition of documenting Alexa's shortcomings and a corresponding slow trend towards using Compete for web traffic stats. In many ways Compete is certainly more accurate. However, Alexa beats (out-competes?) Compete in at least one minor way - tracking subdomains. Alexa keeps stats on individual subdomains like, while Compete displays their statistics for Blogger as a whole. The same goes for hosted Wordpress blogs, etc, etc.

Just kidding, I actually do get 20 million readers per month - and I'll sell you an ad, too :)

Scrybe - Getting Circular

Scrybe is famous for a great video demo that has attracted a lot of buzz (and views!) over the last 10 months. They were featured in a nice article last Sunday in the New York Times. I am very interested in interaction and feedback between different marketing/pr/buzz channels. It's not a stretch to say that their video demo success was a key driver of Sunday's article. No doubt the article has led to a lot of new user signups over the last couple of days. What's interesting is that the NYT article itself was a pretty clear driver of Scrybe video views - notice the big spike on September 2nd - which leads to even more new user signups. This is called Getting Circular!

Kevin Merritt - New CEO Blogger

Kevin Merritt - the founder and CEO of blist - has just started blogging. His first post is an erudite examination of naming blist blist :)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Tricia Duryee Gets Wise To Shiftboard

Tricia Duryee profiled Shiftboard, appropriately, on Labor Day in the Seattle Times. The article coincides with a brand new refresh of the site. It is gratifying to see Shiftboard continue its march towards inevitability - one step after another. Bryan Lhuillier continues to impress as a great entrepreneur.

I am very proud of my extremely minor but ongoing association with Shiftboard.