The current US financial situation has claimed a victim in the Web 2.0 world — Uber. I’m not sure if this is the first significant name, but it will not be the last site running MySQL where investors will be quick to cut losses and move on.
The current US financial situation has claimed a victim in the Web 2.0 world — Uber. I’m not sure if this is the first significant name, but it will not be the last site running MySQL where investors will be quick to cut losses and move on.
The opening keynote was Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures with his presentation New York’s Web Industry From 1995 to 2008: From Nascent to Ascendent .
Some stats, Seed and early stage deals.
Fred first asked “New York is not an alley. Call it Broadway, or just New York.”
Here is a summary of his history of New York Web Industry.
New York is now 1/3 of Silicon valley, compared to 1/8 of funded Internet companies.
One thing mentioned is a documentary called “We live in Public”. Some of the footage from 1999, is so early Big Brother.
Wednesday night I attended my second Hatchery event. The Hatchery is an opportunity for organizations and clever individuals seeking venture capital to make a proposal in a formal panel process with venture capitalists. This month’s event included 3 presenters, all 3 different from last month, each presenting in a better style (thanks to being prepped) in a revised format that included a longer presentation time, and an opportunity of questions from the floor. So the presenters.
On the Internet there is “no way to prove who people say they are”. safeTspace.com is an attempt to address this problem starting with the vertical of creating a safer Internet for children. This is a noble pursuit, it’s clearly needed, I applaud the attempt but it’s a battle that I believe can’t be solved via traditional means. I compared this pursuit with a two very common problems. 1: SPAM. This can’t be solved without eliminating the underlying email protocol that is flawed. 2: VIRUSES. This can’t be solved without the underlying Microsoft Operating System that is a virus incubator.
With these two examples there will always be spam filters and spam programs competing to eliminate spam, and the issue for example of false positives. There will be always be anti-virus software attempting to fix as quickly as possible problems or identification *after* a new virus is found and released to the world. Until Microsoft re-defines the way it secures it’s underlying operating system, and application suit from the ground up, those users that use this OS will continue to live with daily concern of viruses. Enough ranting.
It would appear from the presentation there are two steps of the process, authentication and verification. The authentication process involves a physical person verifying the child in question is a physical real person. The verification process is either a fingerprint scanner, or a camera. Fingerprint scanners for example are not secure, and there are plenty of non-standard entry level models already available, so a fingerprint could be faked. Photo recognition, what’s stopping somebody putting a photo of the child in front of the camera.
The problem is the system is only half of two necessary parts. Authenticating a real person to access the Internet doesn’t stop this person from then doing anything like pretending to be somebody else. While the purpose of the pursuit is to ensure the reverse, this first point can also occur. The co-operation of all websites is needed but how can you get a buy in from sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube etc. I work in this industry, I know people that work for these organizations, I work with large organizations such as these, I know this type of implementation will not happen easily without significant incentive, and there are millions of community web sites, millions.
It was interesting that this project started “from something that came out of an argument”. A comment that was re-iterated by one of the panel saying this was a good thing. I can’t say I agree here, active discussion promotes collaboration, and opinionated views. Arguments rarely achieve anything other then resulting in personal attacks and usually is over something less then very important.
While all three key people were all from the Department of Homeland Security (good to see them all there for the presentation), the comments regarding the proposal included the lack of a technology security expert, and resources with significant Sales & Marketing background. This re-iterates what I have learned from my experiences in working with startup companies and venture capital using the Bell Mason Diagnostic (BMD). This approach tackles 4 different stages of development, 4 quadrants with 12 axis of analysis that covers Technology, CEO, Product, Team, Software Development, Board, Business Plan , Cash, Marketing, Financeability, Sales and Controls. What I know and don’t have in any of my own ventures is contacts and involvement of people covering these areas of required expertise. It’s an important checklist with anybody that has an idea.
The second presenter was for ParkEhiz.com, a quick and easy way to search for and pay in advance for parking. With one click access to your city, Google Maps mashup integration, slider refresh of distance and price (but not rating) the website provides quick access to information and quick filtering, something necessary for a website success, and something that can kill you in performance with a successful site. Still, good points scored from me here for the practical site.
The presenter did a good job. While clearly a technical person, his enthusiasm towards the idea was evident and this is one side to promoting you idea. There were clearly areas of greater analysis in the business plan necessary such as securing major clients, and considering ideal marketing and pricing plans. Panel Investor Hugh Cullman post presentations comments stated in his discussion that the zeal of the presenter and not just the business of the presentation contributed to evaluating proposals early in the funding process. At the ring of the 7 minute timer, when asked to complete the sentence the reply was “it’s going to be a 7 slide sentence”. The presenters know the terms before the presentation, they were also prepared prior. It’s very important that your professionalism includes following the rules.
The ParkWhiz Guarantee is an interesting offer. A 100% guarantee is parking is not honored. This will become an issue if the “phone for an alternative” floods the most likely single phone operator for now. With a dependency on more traditional communication means additional resourcing will always be necessary.
Convenience is a strong selling point. However, having worked for a failed Internet startup from 1999-2002 that had 3 rounds of funding and one significant project that worked with bringing *buyers* and *sellers* together I had a number of points of input. The most significant is meeting the technology capabilities of the “buyer” and “seller”. I saw huge problems here, and this was clearly raised by one of the panel members saying “I know my parking garage just got an answering machine”. In this instance, the reliance on Parking Garages to have Internet access, and to use this in a timely manner will simply never work. Likewise for those looking for last minute parking, people may not both have readily available Internet access not the desire to pay in advance. Combine the management fee for this service of 25%, and I’m sure the desire of less reputable garages for a cash business, as well as the handling of money twice is also and overhead. That is taking money from the buyers, and then passing onto the sellers.
To overcome this I would suggest two things. First, for this to work you need to meet the sellers with the technology they can support, and the most I could see here is cell phone text messaging. No more. The second is providing a monthly fee service for buyers, that again via Cell phone, Text Message, email or PDA version provide a buyer with a list of parking garages with prices and times in the area provided. Would a service of $5-$10 a month work here. Well I guess only trial and error can tell. I did find out that a PDA version of the website existed, however on my iPhone (which is a full web browser), I was stuck with the PDA version.
The final presentation was Newstin, a Global News Aggregator. On first inspection this site showed nothing more then what I get with Google News. The presenter who didn’t stand still (making it interesting for the videographer) was quick to indicate the key differences, the first was the number of feeds being significantly more, and the second being translation capabilities via a machine translation technologies.
This presentation described the direct competition with Googke, Topix.net and Factiva, and similar services as Bloomberg. This information is always necessary, you have to set your apart from your competitors. You have make yourself unique. That uniqueness was the schematic keyword search and integrated translation. This analysis included a patent. The presentation included description of technology partners and it seemed while not clear to indicate that translation was performed by a third party.
The service however is a niche product at $2500 per year. It was also immediately clear that Americans and America can never be considered a primary source for this service. I’ve spoken previously regarding my opinions on the clear lack of World News by the US media, and a clear false view presented to the viewing public in this country. My thoughts on CNN International was also echoed by one of the panel. The key target market is clearly Europe, a point raised many times by the panel. What was not mentioned and I consider an emerging market is Asia. Korea, Japan are powerhouse large Internet communities and I’m sure China and other Asian countries will become likewise.
And to include a quote from the presenter, when asked how much money do you have left from initial funding the response was “Just about enough to get me here to ask for more”. They were clearly asking for a lot and with 30 staff in Prague, Czech Republic resources were also working for peanuts.
One great thing about this meetup is the opportunity to talk more with the presenters afterwards, to also network and this time (as well as before) and the opportunity for a drink with some people following completion. I had a chance when discussing an idea to mention The Purple Cow by Seth Godin. A quick and easy read, but an inspiration in thinking outside the square. I had an opportunity to show my Moo Cards which last month were on order, but used by one of the presenters. What was surreal was as a showed my cards, one was randomly selected just as the NewsTin presenter approached. The card selected was of the Praque Castle (the only Praque photo of the collection) and Praque being the home city of operations for NewsTin. Coincidence!
Web 2.0 is all about community driven content. Recently eBay purchased Stumble Upon for $75 million. There is a problem here. When I first heard of the site, I looked at. I remember going back the next few days, and I was sure it hadn’t changed. Then I started taking screen shots. Having forgotten about it now for over a month under a discussion today, I took another screenshot. In over a month, from June 3rd to July 15th there has been no content change to the website. There has been a change to the counter of number of stumblers, and a change of image for a Recent Stumblers, but the “content”, the recent popular web site on the first page of the website remains unchanged. Check out my screenshots.
-rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 568715 2007-07-15 19:13 stumbleapon.15072007.png -rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 570622 2007-06-03 21:32 stumbleupon.03062007.png -rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 580385 2007-06-04 18:25 stumbleupon.04062007.png -rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 586082 2007-06-07 00:22 stumbleupon.07062007.png -rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 570792 2007-06-15 02:03 stumbleupon.15062007.png
This forum provided for quick presentations by new NY high tech ventures and other interesting discussions, then enabling further networking between people.
The first speaker was Steven Levy, mentioned on the site as Newsweek’s tech editor & all-around geek writer extraordinaire. He is the author of “The Perfect Thing”, a story of the Apple iPod. He shared a funny story of a dinner where he was seated with Bill Gates at a Microsoft XP launch in late 2001, in which he had just that week got his initial iPod following the launch. When he gave it to Bill Gates, he observed as he described this mind meld as a votex between Bill’s brain and the iPod while he checked it out, exploring all the menu options, buttons and options. 45 seconds later came the comment of something like, looks great, and it works with a Macintosh.
Our second speaker was Steve Spurgat from www.urbis.com. The blub. Urbis is a creative community with three types of users: creative people, those who love and support creative people, and those who have opportunities for creative people. It’s very creative.. Some of the interesting features of this site included:
Presently only writing is available, but plans for Music, Art and Film will be available in the next few months. With some 12,000+ members and 13% active, it’s a good start.
There was also discussion of copyright, Urbis being a registered copyright agent complying with government guidelines, and of revenue models including the option for fees from publishers, and the potential of ad copy. A competitor site Trigger Street was also mentioned, started by Kevin Spacey.
One Web 2.0 thing I liked about this site, and the next was that the website was the presentation (no powerpoint), and while talking the home page of the website was displayed and the content was dynamically changing, in this case, reviews being submitted online. A good selling point.
Scott Kolber of LinkStorms was our next presenter. Described as the next generation of links for the web providing context specific fast links and specific navigation from a button, images, banner ad.
The revenue model is CPM plus a publishers setup, maintenance and support fee structure. Apparently up to 40% click thru rate, which is extraordinary compared to the current stats of < 1% for general banners.
When asked what was different with this model, the answer was "the results. It's a better user experience looking at ads".
You can see it in action at Premiere Magazine – The Departed.
Brent Halliburton and his approach to a wikipedia of Organization charts with CogMap certainly got the best response the crowd. A good comedian, Brent made the mistake with a slow Internet connection to demonstrate interactively with an example from the audience and not his own prepared content. It ended up not rendering, then crashing but he managed to turn it around into a plus and the best applause of the night.
His idea provoked a wide range of comment and feedback and when asked why? “Because if your an entrepreneur you do things”. “In the big scheme of things I don’t have all the answers. I just put it out there.”
David Fishman provided the last presentation of uPlayMe, a Windoze program that provides a slant on the community social networking via enternaintment, specifically when they are actually playing via Windows Media Player for example. It’s designed to help people discover other people with the same interests, or weird interests. Some other sites mentioned in the discussion included Last.fm, Pandora and MOG.
We ended with an audience participated 2007 predications. The included:
In the past week, I’ve gone to a number of digg article sites and they have been unavailable. I never kept details of these IT articles, but here is one the one article not of an IT I look at that I did. It referred to an image, which the host provider adjusted (see image to the right). The host provider was ImageShack. I didn’t read anything in the T & C about being too popular!
Here’s the original Digg Post Gmail ads get a little too personal.
I’ve worked for two Internet startup companies, both around 2 years each, both now long dead. The first was due to eventual lack of new VC funds, the second gross financial managment in the second year (apparently, when we were told there was no money December one year to pay us, the company that made large profits every month for over the first year, then had made losses every month for the past 12 months, but nobody knew about it. There were 5 Directors from 3 countries and nobody knew. Yeah Right!)
I’ve learnt a lot of non IT street smarts in this time. The first startup took the VC route, and after 3 rounds while I wasn’t involved in the process you pick up things. The single biggest tip here is the Bell-Mason Diagnostic. Here a few introduction references worthy of a quick review (One, Two).
When you take any great idea, and then consider the 4 quadrants and 12 axis you realise you really need to make larger circles of professional contacts.
Zac’s article Valley Boys Run MySQL talks about the new breed of Web entrepreneurs and Web 2.0. In particular check out
Valley Boys Digg.com’s Kevin Rose leads a new brat pack of young entrepreneurs. This is the new wave of success that works without VC.
For me this recent post on the Meebo Blog really impressed me.
365 days ago
Nineteen releases, eleven (fantastic) team members, and 295,321 gummy bears later we see over a million users log into meebo each day. As a coder, all you hope is that your service will be able help people go about their day-to-day lives. Stability, bugs, and good usability are always top of mind.
1,000,000 users of your Web 2.0 application. This impresses and motivates me. What makes it possible to anybody, is you can get a LAMP stack, a live-cd, cheap hosting and you can turn your idea into something real for next to no cost. Of course, I won’t start on the nightmares out there of great ideas that are very poorly designed. At least the underlying stack can support anything you want to achieve, and MySQL is behind these success stories.
One more thing on Meebo, Check out the meebo map!. I’ve been told that Google has something of a similar nature at the Googleplex. Well I can say I’m very keen to see this, and will be 8 weeks time when the First MySQL Camp is held.
I had need to goto the Wikipedia this morning to review the terminology of something, and on the front page in Today’s featured article is Mercury. Being a tad curious given I’d heard only on the radio a few hours ago that Pluto was no longer a planet in our Solar System, I drilled down to the bottom to check references to other planets (quicker then searching). So at the bottom I found the following graphic and details of The Solar System Summary.
Now, that’s the power of content by the community, one of the characteristics of Web 2.0.
Of course all of this runs under the LAMP Stack and powered by the MySQL Database. Combined with the fact this is a breed of organisation that didn’t start with large amount of Venture Capital, another trend of the newer generation of popular and successful internet enterprises.
In his book, “A Pattern Language”, Christopher Alexander prescribes a format for the concise description of the solution to architectural problems. He writes: “Each pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”
1. The Long Tail
Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of internet’s the possible applications. Therefore: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.
2. Data is the Next Intel Inside
Applications are increasingly data-driven. Therefore: For competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data.
3. Users Add Value
The key to competitive advantage in internet applications is the extent to which users add their own data to that which you provide. Therefore: Don’t restrict your “architecture of participation” to software development. Involve your users both implicitly and explicitly in adding value to your application.
4. Network Effects by Default
Only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application. Therefore: Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.
5. Some Rights Reserved.
Intellectual property protection limits re-use and prevents experimentation. Therefore: When benefits come from collective adoption, not private restriction, make sure that barriers to adoption are low. Follow existing standards, and use licenses with as few restrictions as possible. Design for “hackability” and “remixability.”
6. The Perpetual Beta
When devices and programs are connected to the internet, applications are no longer software artifacts, they are ongoing services. Therefore: Don’t package up new features into monolithic releases, but instead add them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience. Engage your users as real-time testers, and instrument the service so that you know how people use the new features.
7. Cooperate, Don’t Control
Web 2.0 applications are built of a network of cooperating data services. Therefore: Offer web services interfaces and content syndication, and re-use the data services of others. Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely-coupled systems.
8. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
The PC is no longer the only access device for internet applications, and applications that are limited to a single device are less valuable than those that are connected. Therefore: Design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet servers.
In his article What Is Web 2.0 – Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software Tim O’Reilly gives a very detailed description of these seven principles.
1. The Web As Platform
2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
4. End of the Software Release Cycle
5. Lightweight Programming Models
6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
7. Rich User Experiences
Core Competencies of Web 2.0 Companies
In exploring the seven principles above, we’ve highlighted some of the principal features of Web 2.0. Each of the examples we’ve explored demonstrates one or more of those key principles, but may miss others. Let’s close, therefore, by summarizing what we believe to be the core competencies of Web 2.0 companies:
* Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
* Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
* Trusting users as co-developers
* Harnessing collective intelligence
* Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
* Software above the level of a single device
* Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models
The next time a company claims that it’s “Web 2.0,” test their features against the list above. The more points they score, the more they are worthy of the name. Remember, though, that excellence in one area may be more telling than some small steps in all seven.
Some of the information provided is very interesting, I will be waiting with interest to see if this term “Web 2.0″ becomes something, or not.
What is Web 2.0? Well the definitions out there aren’t clear and precise. Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Publishing has a detailed description at http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/6228. (More notes from this below) His compact description is:
The Web 2 Conference (www.web2con.com) with the theme “Revving the Web” has some interesting content on the site.
Let me be clear, I didn’t know what Web 2.0 was 2 hours ago, I stumbled across an article Web 2.0 Principles applied by Yellowikis while research IT Outsourcing jobs in India/China etc (go figure). Anyway, the following summation prompted me to read about this topic a little more.
* Web-based (of course) and uses wiki technology; the same MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia.
* Any user can both read and write content – adding business listings and editing them. To put it in ‘Web 2.0 wanker’ terms, it harnesses collective intelligence.
* Requires a significant amount of ‘trust’ in the users.
* Can be deployed via the Web in countries all over the world (see Emily Chang’s interview with Paul Youlten for more details on this aspect).
* Developed and is maintained by a small team (just Paul and his 14-year old daughter – both working part-time).
* Has fast, lightweight and inexpensive development cycles.
* Uses Open Source LAMP technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) – meaning it is very cheap to run.
* The content has no copyright and is freely licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.
* Can and will hook into other Web systems, e.g. Google Maps. Indeed if it introduces its own APIs, then it will be able to be remixed by other developers.
* Relies on word-of-mouth and other ‘viral’ marketing.
* Requires network effects to kick in order to be successful (at least at the scale of disrupting the Yellow Pages industry).
* Yellowikis will get better the more people use it. The Wikipedia is an excellent example of this.
Taking a few lines from Tim O’Reillys detailed description as a quick taste for you to read more.
I could go on.
I’m writing something about Web 2.0, but I got distracted by the random header quotes that appear on the website at www.web2con.com. Never being a Simpon’s fan, but it reminds me of those sites out there with all Bart’s blackboard quotes.