Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boulder Startup Trivia

A free six-pack of Fat Tire beer to the first person who can tell me the person in the Boulder entrepreneurial community with a copy of Samuel Jackson's character's wallet in Pulp Fiction. You know, the one that says "Bad Mother Fucker" on the outside?

(all people who were at dinner with this person last week are excluded)

add your guess to the comments


I love starting companies.

I don't regard anything quite as professionally rewarding as setting foot on that journey with an old laptop, a head full of ideas, some wits about me, and at least a bit of anecdotal evidence that this could be "big". It's an absolute blast! And as in most journeys (other than spiritual quests - onesomes :) it is good to have someone along for the ride equally up to the challenges ahead, unbridled in their enthusiasm, and complementary in skill.

Because as much as I love the experience, starting a company is hard as hell. There is a dogged uncertainty kept at bay with the constant push towards value. There are pressures and deadlines: pressure to complete the product, pressure to sell the product even before it has fully materialized as living proof that value exists (see, they bought it). Adapt, adapt, adapt. There are pressures exerted by employees past, present, and future, that most human aspect of the business dictated by individual needs, struggles, and desires. There are pressures from investors to move the ball forward to make it to the next stage of the game. There are networking functions to attend, constant meetings with venture capitalists, investment bankers, and other interested parties. There are sales calls, vendor relationships to manage, and a frenetic challenge to be everywhere at once.

In my last three companies I have been the Chief Technology Officer and have had the good fortune to have started the last two with my good friend and CEO Don Springer. Don and I have always co-managed the company and I was reminded of the healthy aspects of this model by the founders of MadKast who told me they were co-managing their company. We've always operated in this model and in fact debated in the first few weeks before starting Collective Intellect which one of us would hold the CEO title. The debate went something like this:

Don: Tim why don't you be CEO this time around
Tim: I don't think you're getting off the hook that easily. No way. You should be CEO.

My advice is to find someone you have professional and emotional balance with. I deeply understand the technology. Don can sell and has an innate ability to put together multi-page cap tables with no circular references. I am a big picture guy who pursues ideas, and Don is more detail oriented. Don will put together a presentation with 40 slides where I will use 5. We can finish each other's sentences, drink our scotch, have fun, vehemently argue a point without offending the other, and still get the presentation done in time. The bottom line is that we hold a lot of mutual respect for each other. Enough to actually listen.

Being able to lean on someone else to help make the hard decisions and steward the company is priceless in bad times and incredibly rewarding in good times.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Defrag Quotes and Whitman

Just a couple of quotes to pass along from Defrag ...

From Doc Searls presentation:

we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings - and our reach exceeds your grasp. DEAL WITH IT
-- Rage Boy
What if we could help vendors understand us instead of being herded like cattle into walled gardens and milked? What if we could manage our own data, our preferences across whole markets? What if what mattered most were our real intentions, rather than just our attention?
-- Doc Searls in talk about Vendor Relationship Management

Doc also had a wonderful Whitman quote from "Song of Myself" but unfortunately I didn't stop to write it down and didn't recognize it after re-reading the entire poem here.

I love Whitman so the quote caught my attention. Searls has a knack for documenting our age in a spirit similar to Whitman.

Turn On, Tune In, Stream Out

I sat on a "Harnessing Collective Intelligence" at Defrag this year. Curiously it was all Boulder companies on the panel. Todd Vernon, CEO of Lijit was there, David Mandell of Me.dium, Ryan Martens of Rally Software, and myself. Each company had it's own take on the subject of the session with Lijit claiming the high ground on social search as a foundation for creating a better search experience, Me.dium extolling the social virtues of co-browsing and flash mobs, and I talked about how companies could really improve their reach and understanding of their consumers. Rally represented the business end of what I discussed and talked about using technology to engage their customers.

I want to reiterate one point that I made on the panel when asked where I saw Collective Intellect being in five years. I don't think it's possible to overstate the importance of the momentum behind consumer generated media and social networking. It is revolutionary in the same way that television changed everything in the 50's. Companies will have to change the way they market to consumers. Family dynamics will change with less time in front of the television and more in front of the computer. News creation, distribution, and consumption patterns will change with more people writing the news, traditional media mining blogs for newsworthy ideas, bloggers feeding off of news and creating viral effects, and news consumers using news readers, blog aggregators, as well as more traditional news outlets to keep informed. There is a sea change at work in how we interact with one another and the entities that are important to us. This can include family, friends, lovers, vendors, and rock stars. One of my friends at work has a teenage son who comes home after school, passes by the television, and logs into MySpace to digest the day.

This is the age of Hyper-Communication. I publish what I'm doing 20 times a day between using Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, my blog, and email. I watch what dozens of friends are doing via these same media. I'm not certain of the destination but know the journey changes everything.

Turn On - Think about the way the world is changing in this new age of Hyper-Communication
Tune In - Listen to the human collective. Become involved in social media and social networking.
Stream Out - Publish Publish Publish. Become a speaking participant!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

facebook and widgets

I attended the Widget Summit in San Francisco a couple of week's ago. So much has happened since then. The Rockies clinched the ALCS only to be swept by Boston in the World Series. Facebook received a huge investment from Microsoft for a very small percentage of the company. Halloween has come and gone. And the weather has turned noticeably colder in Boulder. Widgets have certainly not gone cold however.

The conference was very well attended and there were many good presentations on creating viral growth, what works and what doesn't, how to monetize (and how hard that is), widget platforms and best development practices for some of those platforms. Mobile is one of those platforms and I think often overlooked in the face of the big social media platforms (pun intended). According to Nokia mobile has a current subscriber base of 3 BILLION and will have 4 BILLION subscribers by 2010. The logical conclusion to all of this is a personal web app that incorporates all of your social media interaction, your mobile platform, your blog, news, weather, travel, email, calendar, favorite blogs, twitters, ... in short, everything you interact with daily. Someone will deliver this application framework. Facebook gets pretty far down this road but doesn't really integrate mobile well. The rest will be accomplished with widgets.

And since Facebook is all the rage I thought I would pass on a few tidbits from the Lead Developer of Slide. Slide is the creator of some of the most popular widgets on Facebook with about 1 of 4 Facebook profiles containing one of their widgets, including slideshow, funpix, guestbook, and skinflix.

"get an app out there. if taking more than 3 days then you're over thinking it"

"don't take things so seriously"

"your content is not interesting unless it is interesting to your friend"

"News feed is one of the most viral apps"

"Not good support for monetization at this point, really up to you to get ads in your app"

"Focus on engagement"

pull your banner ads until google does a better job