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As a 22 year veteran of the intersection of media and technology (going back to the interactive video disc days) I have many views on the subject. Having been doing this for as long as I have, I have a different perspective on it than many bloggers. This is where I opine.

Sunday
Jul292007

I've Been Tagged

I've never really been into the whole meme thing but Ann at WhyGoSolo tagged me, so here goes...

1) I have sailed across the Pacific Ocean 4 times, 3 of those times were solo. The 2002 Singlehanded Transpacific race, 2004 Singlehanded Transpacific race. The return voyage back to California in 2004 I also did solo.

2) I like to be alone (see above). I drive cross country by myself too. Until you spend time really alone, you don't know yourself.

3) Entrepreneurship brings out the manic/depressive in me. The highs are really high, the lows are crushing. My stubbornness gets me through the lows.

4) In a performance review at Yahoo! I was told I had an "east coast management style". I am guilty as charged. I am sarcastic, I tend not to sugar coat criticism (but don't take it personally), and I really don't suffer fools well. (Frankly Y! would be well served these days by more "east coast management style").

5) You can network to anyone. Now it's easier than ever. Blogs have totally changed the way business development works for online companies. Blogs are rapidly changing the way the VC world works too. It never hurts to ask, the worst they can say is "no".

6) I believe in love at first sight.

7) The summer before I turn 50 (I'm 42 now) I'm going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

8) Someday I'm going to do the Vendee Globe race. That's solo, around the world, no stops, no outside assistance. I have some technological ideas about how to handle the ice in the southern ocean that should allow me to get scary far south (the high 50s to the low 60s).

Technically I supposed to tag others at this point... That will take more thought.

Thursday
Jul262007

Out in California

I'm out in California (the Bay Area). Having some meetings and catching up with friends of Foneshow. If you want to get together just drop me an email and we'll try to find time.

Tuesday
Jul242007

Amp'd is Going Down

It's been a long slow death, but barring a miracle, today is Amp'ds final day.

Here's the core problem; People don't live in verticals. People aren't only music fans or sports fans or whatever. People live in horizontals. An individual has a breadth of interests. The affinity groups a successful MVNO has to appeal to cannot be vertical interest based. Vertical interest credit card affinity groups work because people carry more than one credit card. People generally don't have more than one cell phone.

While MVNO's are an intrinsically broken model, I can think of some cases where they could work well. Being a "hip cellular carrier" is not one of them.

Tracfone (an MVNO for people with poor/no credit) seems to be doing just fine. If WalMart had an MVNO, I bet it would do well too. They could regularly push SMS or MMS coupons to users. They could trigger custom messages on in-store displays via bluetooth. The mind boggles at what WalMart could do with an MVNO.

Update: Amp'd users get to live for another week

Monday
Jul092007

No Time to Blog

Be back soon.

Here's some linky to Scott Converse and his great BigCo vs. Start Up post.

Monday
Jul022007

Foneshow Retreat

Nic and Erik are up in Truro (the birthplace of Foneshow in August 2006) working on Foneshow Groups. Groups should be coming out of alpha and going into beta in the next few weeks.

We're really excited, because this is really cool. We're going to be looking for beta testers for groups soon, if you're interested let us know.

Friday
Jun292007

Light Blogging

We've got a lot going on and blogging will be light.

Friday
Jun222007

Doh...

I just got email from a user letting me know that we haven't got a map of keypad functions up anywhere on the site or the blog.

Um. Whoops. You're right. Sorry.

We shall immediately ameliorate the situation.


Click on it to make it bigger...

Wednesday
Jun202007

What "No" Means

Marc Andreesen continues to hit blog home runs.

His piece today on the nuances of "No" is another must read.

Wednesday
Jun202007

Jerry is Back

Jerry Yang is back in charge of Yahoo!. I've seen a ton of blog commentary in the last few days, some of it good, some of it incredibly misinformed. The best comment I've seen is from Jason Calacanis

Jerry should rebuild the management team to focus on product and forget about hitting numbers for a year or two. The focus has to be on making better products than Google--not an easy task.
Jason is totally correct. When I started at Yahoo! everything was about the product. Get it out, iterate it, and integrate it with the rest of the network. That was the mantra. Somewhere in late '98 or early '99 it stopped being all about the product. We had beaten Excite, Lycos and Infoseek and Y! was in cruise control. The focus turned inward. Y! built a campus. Office politics became rampant. They opened a Santa Monica campus. The focus was off product. People got scared to take product risks. Lots of new hires were in "vesting-in-peace" mode from day one.

And along came Google and they kicked Yahoo!'s ass. They did it by building a better product in an area that Y! had long been neglecting; search.

Now Jerry is back and his mandate is clear, take on Google.

I don't think taking Google on in search will be successful even if Yahoo! does search better than Google does, there's just too much momentum. Incremental improvements are not enough, you'd need an order of magnitude improvement. That won't happen unless Google eases up on search technology and rests on their laurels (unlikely in my view, there are lots of ex Y!'s at GOOG who know first hand what happens when you do that).

But Google is vulnerable in other areas. Mobile is one of them.

Right now mobile is where the web was in 1995. It's wide open with a huge market just opening up. Yahoo! can win in mobile using the same techniques they used to win online in '96-'98.

Yahoo! won online by addressing the big audience. Yahoo worked the same on every OS and every browser, no plug in needed. The pages were lightweight and loaded fast. They need to do the same in mobile. They need to be carrier and handset agnostic. They need to build apps that don't require 3G. It's not about distribution deals. You need to end-run the mobile carriers. Y! did countless distribution deals (MCI, HP and countless others long forgotten), I don't think combined they amounted to a hill of beans. Distribution is not their problem, good product is. If you build a good product that works consistently across all platforms you will win.

I'm pulling for you Jerry.

Tuesday
Jun192007

Why Not to do a Startup

Marc Andreessen (of Netscape fame) has recently started blogging and he's really good at it.

If you're thinking of starting (or working at) a start up, you should go read this.

Here's a taste:

Second, in a startup, absolutely nothing happens unless you make it happen.

This one throws both founders and employees new to startups.

In an established company -- no matter how poorly run or demoralized -- things happen. They just happen. People come in to work. Code gets written. User interfaces get designed. Servers get provisioned. Markets get analyzed. Pricing gets studied and determined. Sales calls get made. The wastebaskets get emptied. And so on.

A startup has none of the established systems, rhythms, infrastructure that any established company has.

In a startup it is very easy for the code to not get written, for the user interfaces to not get designed... for people to not come into work... and for the wastebaskets to not get emptied.

You as the founder have to put all of these systems and routines and habits in place and get everyone actually rowing -- forget even about rowing in the right direction: just rowing at all is hard enough at the start.

And until you do, absolutely nothing happens.

HT to Fred

Friday
Jun152007

Never wrestle with a pig ...

... you'll both get dirty, and only the pig will enjoy it.

Robert Scoble and ValleyWag are having a shit fight. I don't know if Scoble is looking for a job. I don't know if PodTech is running short on cash (although it wouldn't surprise me, they have a not insignificant nut). I do know that no one comes out looking good in these public peeing contests.

FWIW, we're hiring and if Robert wants to come work for us we'll find a place for him. I'll post job descriptions as soon as I finish writing them.

Wednesday
Jun132007

We're reporting subscribers to feed publishers

When we pull in podcasts from RSS feeds to distribute as Foneshows, we now tell those feeds how many subscribers we have for their podcasts. We put the number of subscribers in the User-Agent header of our HTTP request, which has become the standard way to do this, which will let FeedBurner include Foneshow subscribers in their reporting.

Monday
Jun112007

Talkers Conference

Nic and I had a table at Talkers Magazine's talk radio conference in NYC on Friday and Saturday. Pretty much everyone in the industry was there. We demo-ed to to lots of important folks and made some tremendous contacts. It's a fascinating industry. It is not at all what it appears from the outside.

One very important theme that some people there got and some people don't get is that they are not in the radio business, they are in the communications business. If you marry yourself to radio as a distribution platform you will inevitably become irrelevant.

We're looking to hire someone who has experience and contacts in the talk radio business (a solid rolodex) to do industry specific business development in the space. You'll have the opportunity to help take the platform of talk radio to a new level. When you're this early in a company you'll be writing a lot of your own job description. If you're interested and experienced, get in touch.

Wednesday
Jun062007

This Week

On Thursday night I'll be in NY at the PaidContent Mixer.

On Friday I'll be at the Talkers Conference New Media Seminar.

On Saturday we'll be demo-ing at a table at the talkers conference in the atrium of the Embassy Suites Battery Park. Come on by and say hello.

Sunday
Jun032007

Amp'd files for Bankruptcy, Techcrunch Jumps the Shark

I read yesterday on MoCo News that the lavishly funded MVNO Amp'd has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. I can't say I'm terribly surprised. MVNO's are a risky proposition. They have no technology. There is nothing defensible. They directly compete against their most important suppliers. All they have is their brand.

This morning I read on TechCrunch, in an article that solely cited the MoCo news article, that Amp'd had "imploded" and that TechCrunch was putting them in their "deadpool". If you are going to just copy a story from one of your competitors at least get the facts right and don't make up your own embellishments. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is when you are ceasing operations, chapter 11 is when you are re-orging and continuing operations. Mike Arrington is a lawyer for christ's sake. Was he absent the day in law school when they taught bankruptcy law? Yes I know Arrington didn't write the article, but he is the editor. For me this is really the tipping point of TechCrunch's uselessness as a news source. Last week they totally screwed up the Wallstrip story. Now there's this? They are now merely PR flacks. They've become a less rude ValleyWag (who incidentally, got the story right).

Wednesday
May302007

CBS Buys Last.fm

$280 million for Last.fm.

Quincy has been very busy.

Last week they bought our pal Howard Lindzon's Wallstrip property.

Monday
May282007

Rabble Rousers

There's a Japanese Proverb: "Deru kugi wa utareru." It translates to "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." Nowhere is this proverb more true than in big companies (speaking as one who has been a nail standing proud in a big company). Working at a start-up is a whole different world. In a start-up everyone needs to be the nail that sticks up. While doing your job is necessary, it is not nearly sufficient.

Foneshow will soon be hiring our first non-founders. Those first few hires are key to defining the culture of the organization. We want people who get pissed off at things in the world that don't work well. But they can't just rant about them, they need to at least try to do something about them. We want people with strong opinions who will make cogent arguments supporting those opinions. We want people who will passionately argue their position. I'd be surprised if we hire people who don't have their own blogs or podcast. There's no room for standing on past achievements, it's all about what comes next. It's not about following instructions, it's about getting stuff done. Getting rich can't be the goal (although it might be a nice side effect). The goal is to change the world.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." If you're good at suffering evil, then you're likely not a good fit in a start up. We want rabble rousers.

Thursday
May242007

Being Defined in Terms of Others

It is human nature to define something new in terms of things one already understands. As more people see what Foneshow is working on (both the public stuff and forthcoming products) they define us in their own ways.

I heard our media publishing platform defined as:

"Mobile Tivo for audio"
Several people who have seen our groups product (now in alpha) have referred to it as:
"Twitter for voice"

Both of those similes are accurate and show a good understanding of what we're working on. Both of them help us think about what we're doing in new ways.

Thursday
May242007

2008 Election

The Foneshow team spent a good chunk of time last week at conferences talking with customers for our political activism and campaign products. We saw a lot of people talking about the role video (YouTube et. al.) will play in the 2008 election cycle. My position leans towards concern. I suspect their will be an enormous number of "unauthorized" campaign commercials released. We have already seen a number of these types of ads (the Hilary "1984 ad", the Edwards "I Feel Pretty" ad, lots of videos of Giuliani in drag, there was a nasty one about McCain which I can't find now).

I believe that understanding provenance of a political advertisement is key. You need to understand the agenda of the people creating the ad to learn something from it. I suspect what will happen is there is going to be lots of noise and video will get lots of press, but in the end it will be a wash and online video will not play a significant role in who gets elected. I fear it could get so ugly as to turn people off of the process and keep them away from the polls.

While the video people may make all the noise in the 2008 election, I think we mobile people have more power to actually influence the outcome on election day. We can coordinate getting people to the polls. We can do micro-broadcasts to campaign workers on breaking issues. Our groups product can coordinate large remote teams of volunteers in the field in real time. We may even be able to use our interactive features in getting people registered to vote. Hopefully we can get more people better informed and participating.

At the end of the day, YouTube is another broadcast channel. Mobile is a communication channel. I believe politics in this country needs more communication and less broadcasting.

Monday
May212007

You've Just Got to Love the Cellular Carriers


From the New York Times

The companies will waive the early termination fee if you die. Pretending to be dead, however, does not work well as a way to break a contract. Sprint Nextel, Verizon and Cingular, for example, may ask for a death certificate. T-Mobile says it does not. “They want to take people at their word,” said Graham Crow, a spokesman for the company.
HT to Jason at Skydeck.

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