Friday, November 2nd, 2007
No, not Facebook Zombies. As it turns out, it is really easy for me to ignore Facebooks most viral applications because I totally don’t care.
I see Venture Capital zombies. Junior Hines over at Clickety Clack covers two topical rounds of fundraising: Rapt and Specific Media. TechCrunch covers Specific Media more here. Rapt has raised ~$50m, Specific Media ~$110m. What kinds of exits do they have to look for to create success? Now, if Specific Media found someone willing to pay $500m dollars for their company, if the investors own 50%, then they only see a 2.5x return on their invested capital. On an absolute basis, it might be ok, but for multiples it is pretty low. Rapt has the same issue. Both of these deals are swing for the fences shots.
I fear Rapt has some of the same issues that a Vignette or a Revenue Science has. How many really big web sites are there that can justify this expense? Vignette benefited from being able to target Intranets. Revenue Science has struggled to transition to a network model as they realized that there are very few sites with great behaviors and lots of excess ROS inventory to arbitrage behaviors with.
Are these exits going to be exits that investors and employees can feel good about? I am not so sure. I have blogged about valuation challenges a ton.
Regardless, I wish them luck! If Specific can IPO or sell at a multi-billion valuation, then Time Warner will certainly spin off Ad.com.
Tuesday, October 30th, 2007
A wave of new code has been unleashed, incrementing the version number to 11! No question, these are some of the biggest new features since our launch last year.
New features include:
- Subscribe to changes in maps (You are automatically subscribed to maps you edit) via email
- Send charts to friends without being logged in
- Metadata about maps – City, State, Country & SIC Code are now captured. I will do some super fun stuff with that very soon
- Search has been tweaked a bit
When you add this to the sweet new scoring system, we are creating a simple but broader data framework to let us offer a sweet new wave of functionality.
Update: We have abandoned SIC codes for the 2007 NAICS list (using only 2 and 3 digit codes to keep the file size down). Is there a better list of industry types that is still standards-based-ish?
Monday, October 29th, 2007
Brad Feld, who has written a few great posts on the subject himself, finds a good article on Business Week discussing the different ways that Directors can be terrible.
My real experience in this area has been start-ups and the most common problem I have found is situations where people try to get someone on the board based on that persons resume but that person is not an advocate for the business. I think part of the responsibility of being involved in a board is that you have to try and help the situation.
Generally speaking, the best way to bring these things into alignment is to get every board member to have put some significant money into the business. Something that makes them get involved. Paying board members? If they have enough stake in the game, they should be willing to work for you for free just to improve the outcome!
In my first business, we had a board and we added a board member who had great relationships, we kind of knew through the grapevine, and loved to name drop. Unfortunately, I don’t think we ever really benefited from his expertise because we did not know how to push him to help us and he was not sufficiently motivated to do so. He had put no money into the business, he had limited upside and no downside. This time around and in the future, to join the board, you write a check. I have found that works much better.
Monday, October 29th, 2007
With the new arrival in my family, it is a little tricky, but I know I should go! Anyone planning to be in NYC and want to get a cup of coffee?
Monday, October 29th, 2007
At Cogmap, thinking about UGC content is something near and dear to our heart.
A big announcement came out the other day about “UGC Principles” created by content owners and a couple of companies that have filtering tools. In a nutshell, rather than a platform being a toolset for users (the force may be used for good or evil, each Jedi must choose!), the platform is responsible for what users do.
This is not just conceptually hard to buy into and also difficult to do from an engineering perspective: I believe it stifles innovation. If a company like Cogmap were responsible for making sure that no one was uploading UGC illegally (i.e. sharing organizational information that they are confidentially bound to protect), how could we even build this site? We are a tiny team! Building some magical filtration system is outside the scope of our capabilities. For that matter, how can you determine if a video clip is copyrighted without comparing it to every video clip ever created. Is a system storing terabytes of data to facilitate this reasonable?
This seems to me like a self-serving move by content owners to make their life easier. Read about it here and here.
Having said that, I have to say that I am also sympathetic to content owners. Is it really their job to find every instance of stolen video on YouTube and send YouTube cease and desist notices? Seems unfair to the content owner that YouTube can disclaim responsibility. Of course, that is what I am doing here and I appreciate YouTube’s “How can I know what is copyrighted and not copyrighted” stance. I guess what I imagine YouTube could do is, given a video clip, find all other copies of the clip in the network and delete them.
Cogmap’s dilemma is not so much the copyright nature, but the legality of sharing information. I don’t know if a given community member has the legal right to share the data he is sharing. As always, we encourage our members to NOT BREAK THE LAW.
This is a complex problem. The key in my mind is to make sure that it gets worked out in a way that does not stifle innovation and create unrealistic burdens for small innovators in the market.
Friday, October 26th, 2007
Just rolled out a new feature: cogscores! Check out an example by looking at anyone’s cogprofile – for example, you could look at rpeters59‘s cogprofile, you can see that he has made a number of maps, some of which are a pretty good size, and his cogscore reflects his contributions to the cogmunity! (My, we are feeling coggy today!)
So here we are implementing a bunch of the things that people say make sites more social-ish. First profiles, now scoring. LSVP, my site of choice for linking love, has a slew of good posts pointing to other posts on this.
Obviously, there is the potential to game the system to get points. The initial implementation of this is super simplistic, but we will ramp up the complexity over time to factor quality, popularity of maps, and some other interesting metrics into the mix. For now, build lots of big maps and you will be a winner.
Our help page explains the awesome benefits of point accumulation: not too much.
Many new features on the way.
Thursday, October 25th, 2007
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
Yardley points to a great article on 24/7’s ad network getting hijacked by hackers. What I find interesting about this is how it illustrates that we put lots of things on our sites that don’t belong to us. Advertising networks daisy chain together so the ad you serve may be from a network you don’t contract with. You might invoke web services from companies like Amazon. You may install Google Gadgets. You may pull RSS feeds for syndicated content. There are a million different ways that we give up control of our applications to gain additional functionality.
In many ways, this is reminiscent of a security debate that has gone on for decades. And of course, generally, I fall on the side of “open it up and hope for the best”. Given that, we must be exceptionally tolerant of the occasional security breach that transpires.
Monday, October 22nd, 2007
Everyone else has blogged about it, I will also: Great New York Times article on site relationships with comScore. It is amazing that, even with todays amazing server logs that track every file download, it is not possible to really use that data to create apples to apples comparisons of user surfing habits. comScore fills three crucial gaps in the data gathered by sites to paint a different picture of online use:
- Discard international traffic
- Aggregate work/home traffic
- Overcome cookie deletion to identify multiple instances of the same user
Is comScore imperfect? Sure. What is really bitter is that all of these issues also plague ad servers such as Atlas or DART, so the way campaigns can be delivered may differ from the picture that comScore says is possible on a site. And it is amazing that you should expect discrepancies between comScore and sites – after all, they use different methodologies, but you would not expect such big differences between advertiser ad servers and sites. The methodologies should be synced up there.
There is clearly still a lot of foundational work to do here. Having said that, these discrepancies stem from the fact that more data is available in this medium than ever before. If an agency announces that it wants to sit on the sidelines until these metrics get reconciled, than other arbitrageurs will step in to fill the void. On a performance basis, I still believe that most online advertising offers great value!
Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
Great story of entrepreneurial success as Startup Review looks at Jumpstart, the original synthetic channel. What I always wondered was whether they could have done better than the exit they saw. Also, what role did the late round of capital they raise play in forcing them to exit?