The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki


Archive for December, 2009


Cogmap Updates

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Fixed some minor bugs and moved Cogmap over to PHP 5.0.  Shoot me an email if you see anything buggy!  brent @ cogmap dot you know what.

Cogmap Proves That People Stop Selling on Second Tuesday of December

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

True factoid, based on Cogdata, your sales people are not working as hard as they usually do.

Due to the business cycle nature of Cogmap traffic, there has always been a dip in Cogtraffic as the holidays approach, as our data shows.  If you point to one day that I look at and say, “Ah, a slightly unusual decline starts here”, it is the second Tuesday in December.  Each year, traffic started to decline there in an unusual way.  Isn’t that neat?

So your sales people started slacking there, in case you wondered.

This is also born out if you look at Traffic:

Or jigsaw:

So there you go, people shut it down on the second Tuesday of December.

Breaking News: Google/Starbucks deal flying under the radar

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Don’t know if anyone else noticed this, but the wifi in Starbucks now allows you to access Google stuff without logging in and only requires you to login and have an account if you attempt to access non-Google resources.

Shame Google did not consider fighting to make all Internet in Starbucks free.  Not evil, but not not evil…

Challenges for Start-ups: Is USV Early Stage or Is Early Stage Changing?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

logoYou bet I am studying the start-up ecosystem closely.

Great article by Bill Burnham recently.  His thesis: It is hard to swing for the fences when investors won’t put a lot of money into an idea prior to finding out if it has traction.  Every business idea has to be based on a quick launch scheme that demonstrates near instant traction.  Something that actually requires rocket science is hard to do in a funding environment where people feel a lot of pressure to put more capital to work in deals.

The second I read this article, I thought of Fred Wilson.  He recently wrote about how he rarely invests in services that are not launched.  Venture Capitalists don’t get much earlier than Union Square.  Charlie O’Donnell, previously an associate at USV and now an EIR at First Round, recently wrote about First Round that he wants to write checks before people even have decks.  This is an interesting tension, because I suspect that Charlie would not think that First Round is trying to be earlier than USV.  But anyway, if the earliest of early stage guys, Union Square, doesn’t do deals until a site is launched, what is someone to do if an idea takes more than a few hundred thousand dollars to get to launch.

I imagine the rejoinder is that people that can’t raise millions before launch have no business starting companies that require millions to launch.  At least, that was the gist of the comments on Bill’s article.  But that really isn’t true.  That is simply a circular and self-fulfilling prophecy.  Certainly, rapid iterations and the inexpensive architecture of Web 2.0 theoretically allow products to get to market faster, but hearing that the market to raise capital for companies that are pre-launch has basically been left to angels for all but the most savvy and experienced serial entrepreneurs is a bad message for East Coast entrepreneurs.

On the one hand, this isn’t entirely accurate, but as both Bill and Fred seem to agree, it isn’t far from the case either.

Dichotomy of Pitching Investors

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I knew when I started my new, new thing that I would need to raise capital.  And I knew a fair amount about the process, despite never having raised capital before.  But I learned something new recently that has been a bit dumb-founding:

  1. Everyone says, “Don’t pitch the people most likely to invest first.  Practice with people less likely to pitch.”
  2. But as it turns out, the people most likely to invest are the people that it is easiest for me to get meetings with and they are the people most open-minded to giving me good coaching.

Funny how that works!

Acquisitions Are Hard: Case Study: Third Screen Media

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

phonesAs always, Alley Insider continues to obsessively cover the soap opera that is AOL.  And why not?  It is crazy there. Far crazier than any 10 other Internet companies in NYC, so the result is that it is simply more gossip-ey, more filled with arcane insider-ey news, and more interesting than most of the rest of the industry – despite the fact that AOL probably can’t win.

The most recent story I read was that every engineer for Third Screen Media took the package.  And there was a comment that AOL would never give up hope for its mobile monetization: it was simply too important.

I would say that all of this is true.  Consider:

  1. Obviously, it was not AOLs intent to lose the mobile wars.  They were the first people to snap up a company in the mobile ad network space and they had their pick of the litter.  They took the best company in the market.  Third Screen was better than the other guys.
  2. Once they acquired it, they had to consider how to help it win.  Many, many, many big companies think: We should have our giant sales force sell this new shiny product and then we will win.
  3. So the sales forces get integrated and you are off to the races, right?  Nope.  This was an early market and it was hard to sell.  I have no direct knowledge of this, but I can imagine: Quickly, the sales force flipped over to selling things they were more comfortable selling.  Those things were also bigger ticket!  With quarter to quarter pressure and constant sales force reorganizations, the focus on selling a less mature, smaller dollar product goes away.  In the face of headcount reductions, there is never a moment of thought given to having a dedicated sales force to nurse this product along.  Sales decline, are flat, or do not grow as fast as competitors.
  4. Networks are a natural monopoly.  The ad sales winner gets the most inventory.  The person with the most inventory gets the most advertisers.  Quickly, a network business can fall into a death spiral without great sales.  Employees cannot fail to notice.

Also, Third Screen employees were in Boston.  Was the organization focused on helping Boston employees feel love?  Nope.  Down-sizing means consolidation.  Also, all of the senior third screen people had left with the acquisition.  That probably meant there were new start-ups to go join if you were a third screen engineer.  And AOL had taught you that start-ups make you richer than working for AOL!

So with the best of intentions, big companies frequently kill small acquistions due to inability to sell the small products in a market appropriate way.  You see this all the time.  Without the laser focus the start-up had, the sales model never matures enough.  Unless the product is right at the tip of the tornado, handing the product over to the old-school sales force will not cause it to scale like gangbusters.

Great Job Descriptions Are Important

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I know I have fawned over expensify a fair bit recently.  I wanted to just point out one more thing.  They recently posted a great job description.

I have always said that I felt that a good job description was a leading indicator of how much the company thought about and cared about a position.  Someone that doesn’t have the time to write a good job description probably won’t be a great manager.  Similarly, a slap-dash job description probably indicates a position that is not appropriately valued by the organization.

Also, asking someone to do some work is a great practice because it identifies people that really care and it is a lot more meaningful metric for work quality than a typical interview process.

No question, I will nick parts of this for future job descriptions I am writing.

Usability Nightmare in Big Government

Friday, December 11th, 2009

epic-fail-reading-material-failSo I filed for unemployment the other day.  Unemployment is great because it is like free money the government has been garnishing from your wages for just this moment.  If you are never unemployed, you never get the chance to go get that money you deserve.

You can apply online and everything!  It was great….. or so I thought.

I get a notice a few days later saying I have to do a call with them because I received a severance package and am not unemployed.

I do the call and the first thing out of my mouth is, “I got a package, but I am pretty unemployed!”  Her response: Oh yeah, that is just what the form says.  This is merely a formality where we have to enter that you received a severance, per the notice the government received from AOL, into our system.  Oh, no problem, I think.  Although it is a bummer I could not have somehow entered that online.

Then at the end of the call, she drops the bombshell.  “Oh, you know you never actually completed the process, right?”  Nope.  “Oh, yeah, everyone who signs up online doesn’t click on the right things.  After it says you are done, you have to go back in and open a claim and then follow those instruction.  This happens to everyone.  Don’t worry about it.”

Wow, their online system works great if everyone who tries to sign up online fails.  Woowoo.

So the way to correct it, apparently, was to call this number.  I called the number ten times and it was busy every time.  But it did have a helpful message: “All lines are busy right now, press 3 if you would like to be called back when lines are available.  There may be an extra fee for this service.”  What am I supposed to do with that?

Anyway, after calling ten more times, I figure, “what the hell” and press 3 for my mystery fee.  Then I get the message, “This feature will not work because you are outside the calling area.”  Click.

Gotta love the government.

I like to get emails like this

Thursday, December 10th, 2009


I’ve been looking for something like this for, God knows, how long?!? And here it is, you’re here, here to stay!

Just thought of letting you know, because with the type of work that my organization and I do, this is the magical pill.” A Seed of A Good Idea

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

SEED — Bhall_1260329674510

So I gave a try tonight.  Interesting model, poor web site.

They allow you to select articles you want to write or pictures you want to submit and have a price associated with each of them.  Then you submit your stuff, and then they explain “the deal”.  They will do one of three things with the article you have now written (or picture submitted):

  • Buy it outright for the price you offered
  • Put it on their web site and rev share an unspecified percentage with you
  • Tell you they don’t want it

It was interesting that they didn’t really explain that until after I wrote my article.  I wonder how that works out for them.