These are older posts. Some on TV (up until 2010 or so). Before that they are mostly about starting up Foneshow.


My New Demo Phone

It's a Kyocera MARBL running on Virgin Mobile. The handset was $29. There's no contract, the airtime is prepaid. It's the cheapest, most plastic phone I've ever owned and Foneshow works great on it. Smart phones are less than 5% of the US market. While the big part of the cellular market isn't quite as cheap as the MARBL, demoing that your product works on the least common denominator of device really gets the point across that what we're building is a product for the mass market.

As a demo phone, it's great. It's got a good speakerphone. It's got an easy to access SMS client. As on all phones dialing a phone number embedded in a text message is merely a matter of pressing the send button.





I'm going to be at Web Innovators 14 tonight in Cambridge. They're great events, you should go if you can.


VC Funding

After a year of bootstrapping, we've, closed a (slightly oversubscribed) series A round of venture funding. Our investors include CEI Community Ventures, Masthead Venture Partners, the Small Enterprise Growth Fund of Maine. They're joined by some angels and other private equity. Mike Gurau from CCVI and Steve Smith from MVP will be joining our board. There's a ton of people to thank and I know I'll forget some, so I'm not going to try to name everyone. There is one person I do want to particularly thank, my old friend and Yahoo! colleague, Matt Rightmire. Matt made the introductions for us to CCVI, MVP, and SEGF; all three invested (thanks Matt!).

Also we're hiring (and we can actually pay). More detailed descriptions will be available soon. But broadly speaking we need;

BizDev, particularly with experience in the news/talk radio space, or working with political campaigns.

Podcast community liaisons. People with contacts/cred in the podcast space to evangelize the power of what we're doing.

A product manager to lead Foneshow Groups efforts

Engineers with mason, perl and/or asterisk experience.

Really bright people who can bring things to the table that we don't see yet.

We've got a ton of work ahead of us and we're really looking forward to building out the team and executing the plan.

You don't have to be in the valley to raise Venture Capital.


We're Moving

We're getting new offices. The address is:

Foneshow Inc
39 Exchange Street
3rd Floor
Portland, Maine

You want to see some pictures? Check out the set on Flickr

This is where we are on the map.


Happy Birthday to Us

Foneshow is one year old today. One year ago Nic and I came up with the invention that none of our competitors had thought of.

There are lots of people doing audio on the cell phone (just look at out competitor module), no one else is doing it the way we are.


Fox News Radio

We were approached recently by the Fox Radio News people about carrying the hourly Fox News updates (and other Fox Radio programming) on Foneshow. We happily added their programming (hourly news, Bill O'Reilly, and some other stuff) to our database (you can subscribe here if you like).

An hourly news show brings up a number of challenges to our user experience. Clearly, most people don't want to get notified 24 times a day at the top of the hour that the news has updated. Another issue is since we allow an individual user to define certain times of the day during which they are not notified (black out periods), we need a new way to handle coming out of a black out period for certain series. If you're blacked out on notifications from 11PM to 7AM, you don't want to get the 7 notifications you missed overnight at 7AM.

Essentially we're talking about a different class of series where a new show supplants the value of an older show. The easy answer to this is fixed DIDs, like podlinez, you fix a phone number to a series. But that is an inelegant solution and it doesn't scale well. A better answer is some kind of hybrid of our current dynamic DID system and a fixed did system. If we combined that with more flexibility to the user for handling notification messages then we've got something pretty neat.

We're excited to be working with Fox news on this project and look forward to honing our platform to support the ways in which programmers want to use it.


A Tip on Closing a VC Round

Never try to close a VC round during the summer.

The problem is magnified if you're using a syndicate of several firms. The timing issues are a nightmare. Your VC will go on vacation (times however many VC firms are in the deal). Your lawyer will go on vacation. The VC's lawyers will go on vacation. Things that should take days, take weeks instead.

I'll be making a number of posts over the next few weeks detailing how we put together a VC investment.


Richard III...

...and those who fell at Bosworth Field, having kept the faith August 22, 1485.

Loyaulte Me Lie


Foneshow on the iPhone

We've been doing some testing and Foneshow works great on the iPhone!

Here you see the notification SMS's in the iPhone SMS client. The iPhone threads conversations (just like the Treo) so the Foneshow SMS "conversation" becomes a menu of your freshest available programming. It's kind of like bloglines for podcasts (on your phone).

Notice the dynamically allocated phone numbers which allow the user to access an individual piece of programming. You can also clearly see the advertisements within the notification messages (these ads are provided by, our messaging partner. If you want to advertise on Foneshow text messages let us know and we'll put you in touch with the right people at 4info).

While we're pleased that Foneshow works great on the iPhone, we are unsurprised. We designed Foneshow to work well on essentially any cell phone.

Here's how Foneshow looks on a Nokia 2128i. Now admittedly, Foneshow looks sexier on the iPhone (but really, everything looks sexier on the iPhone). But the functionality is all there. The SMS archive acts as a menu. Dialing a number embedded in a SMS just requires the user to hit the send key.

Most importantly, the Nokia 2128i is typical of the kind of cell phone that US cellular carriers give away. This one is one of our test/demo units. It cost us $9 with a one year plan. It would have been free if we had opted for a 2 year plan. These inexpensive cell phones make up a major part of the 220 million cell phones in the US. If you want to make a mass market product you have to be able to reach a big audience.

So what phones don't work with Foneshow? Our testing has found very few.

Nic's Mom's StarTAC (circa 1997) does not have text messaging, so it doesn't work (of course it's an analog phone, my guess is it won't even make phone calls pretty soon).

We also recently discovered that T-Mobile prepaid does not accept text messages from short codes. Regular T-Mo accounts work just fine. There is a work around for the T-Mo prepaid problem using the T-Mo email gateway. It's not an elegant solution and we're hoping T-Mo changes their prepaid short code policy.


I'm in New York

We've got some meetings today and tomorrow with programming partners.


ATT Hates Trees

Submitted with no further comment.


WiFi Mesh

Last weekend Nic and I built a WiFi mesh across the turnaround (up in Truro) using these really cool indoor and outdoor Meraki Wifi repeaters.

Here are a few pictures.



The New York Times had a great article today about the ongoing ConnectU/Facebook kerfuffle (pdf). There are many lessons here for those starting up a technology company.

They quote R. Scott Feldmann, an intellectual property lawyer and a partner at Crowell & Moring.

Ideas, Mr. Feldmann explained, are protected either by trade-secret contracts or by patents and copyrights. “Trade secrets may be maintained indefinitely,” he said, but “it does not appear that ConnectU had Zuckerberg sign a nondisclosure agreement, and disclosing a trade secret to someone without doing so would ordinarily result in loss of any trade secret status.”

At the same time, Mr. Feldmann said, “copyright will not protect ideas themselves, only their expression” — in a Web site’s underlying source code, for instance. But if Mr. Zuckerberg was an unpaid, casual worker at ConnectU, and not an employee, then “he owns the code,” Mr. Feldmann said. Thus, even if the ConnectU plaintiffs can prove that the codes of two social networking sites were similar (an argument that Facebook seems confident it can refute), the Winklevosses might have no claims on Mr. Zuckerberg.

“On the surface, it appears ConnectU will have some challenges,” Mr. Feldmann said.

Given all the sturm und drang this case has kicked up on the blogosphere (now also in the offline press), the thing that keeps running through my head is the old Peggy Lee song...


An Observation

We recently posted a job listing on Craigslist Maine for an admin/operations person. We got a big bunch of resumes that we're reviewing this weekend. It seems that the vast majority of them (60-70%) are from people who are either currently, or recently employed in the mortgage industry.

I'm no economist, but to a layman, that doesn't seem to bode well for the mortgage industry.


My New Start Page

My Yahoo! has been my browser start page since the summer of 1996.

As of this morning, My Y! no longer my start page. This morning I switched to the customized iGoogle start page.

The overwhelming reason is speed. The new, improved, version of My Y! is just plain slow. They've redesigned stuff to add more graphics and to look all "Web 2.0", but in the process they've killed the usability. My Y! was a great start page because it had everything I wanted and it was wicked fast. Perhaps My Y! just became a mismanaged anachronism of the pre-RSS revolution.

iGoogle on the other hand just rocks. It's really fast, there are lots of modules, and the design is clean. Most importantly, it's open, if I need a module that doesn't exist, I can just write it myself.

There's a lesson to be learned here for all startups (including Foneshow) about user centered design and targeting your platform.


A Request for JetBlue

Please make your San Jose to Boston redeye (flight 470) leave a little later.

You guys know I love you. I've even forgiven you for leaving me at JFK for a few days last February (a few flights on United reminded me what really bad airline service was like). Like any "outside the valley" tech entrepreneur, the SiliValley redeye is a staple of my work life.

But a redeye that leaves at 9PM and arrives at 4:50AM defeats the purpose of a redeye. It leaves too early to fall asleep easily and it arrives too early to get anything done with your extra time in Boston.

If you could change the departure time to 11PM, many technology entrepreneurs in New England would be grateful.



Who Makes Money in Podcasting?

In a conversation with Robert Scoble and Loren Feldman on his show yesterday, Jason Calacanis asserted that Podtech is making more money in podcasting than anyone else.

Jason is not even close to right.

Rush Limbaugh's podcast has about 1,000,000 subscribers paying $5 per month. Anyone believe Podtech is pulling in $60 million a year in gross revenues? I don't. Apple even changed the way iTunes works to support Limbaugh.


Upcoming Conferences

September 28-30 Podcast Expo in Ontario, California (Just attending)

October 17-19 Online News Association in Toronto, Ontario (the real one in Canada, not the one in LA), (Erik is on a panel)

October 26-28, Podcamp Boston 2 (We'll certainly do a session, we may sponsor)

October 29-November 1, Fall-VON, Boston


Dave Winer is Right

Dave's post about mobile versions of web sites is spot on.

"The screens have limited resolution, and even if they didn't, even if they could cram a billion pixels into every square inch, there's the limit of how much detail our eyes can see and how big our hands are."

This ties in very well with my observations about mobile video.

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