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.
Entries in FoneShow (123)
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
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 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.
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.
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 4info.net, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.