Sizing Up Your Business

Last night I spoke at the Gilbert FastTrac GrowthVenture meeting. It was a pleasure to see so many founders and entrepreneurs in a room sharing knowledge, insights and experiences.

I’m willing to bet any one of them could have stood up and shared their thoughts with all of us and we would have learned as much (or probably more) than we did by listening to me for 40 minutes.

The thing is, it takes a community, an ecosystem to create a thriving entrepreneurial economy – and while that is a topic for a different post – I was thrilled to see entrepreneurs coming together.

I’m including the slides below, and I hope you find them helpful – but the real value was in the richness of the dialoge.

View more presentations from Brian Roy.

JustSignal – Turn down the noise and just get the signal.


On Friday, November 21st cosinity released JustSignal – a combined FriendFeed and Twitter application that allows you to turn down the noise and focus in on just those topics or users you find most interesting.

As much as I love Twitter and FriendFeed, they can become a giant distraction. Too much noise, not enough signal. JustSignal is the solution. It allows you to get your entire home feed from FriendFeed and near real-time “Track” from Twitter – all in one user interface. JustSignal’s filtering solution allows you to only receive the information you care most about – in real-time.


While that alone is a powerful solution for the individual user… JustSignal delivers so much more.

JustSignal Brand Monitor tracks your brand across Twitter and FriendFeed – allowing you to monitor what is said about your brand – and react in real time. Our robust solution queues Tweets, FriendFeed Posts, Comments and Likes that refer to your brand. Anyone in your company can log in and respond to those Social Media brand messages as they happen.

JustSignal Brand Monitor also archives everything said about your company – allowing you to analyze the data and determine what the perception is and how it is trending.

This combination of real-time monitoring and response, and historical data analysis is transformative for your company. Stop sending out surveys and start listening to your customers, prospects and influencers.

You can contact me directly for more information.

FriendFeed to XMPP Bridge – Why, how and the plan.

Yesterday I took about and hour and created a FriendFeed to XMPP bridge. The advantage I had was that I was already running a XMPP server and had a working XMPP bot – these existed for my own personal use as well as for cosinity.


Primarily this is about information discovery. The ability to participate is challenging (see below) as FriendFeed is an aggregator.

As I said in an earlier post – I believe FriendFeed’s Real-Time functionality is missing two important capabilities.

  1. The ability to filter the feed by keyword(s).
  2. The ability to get real-time for the public timeline.

While there is nothing I can do about access to the public timeline – I can, via the API, create the ability to filter a feed by keyword(s).

Additionally, XMPP is a clean way to distribute the information – so why not have it published via XMPP?


Since FriendFeed had not released any sample code or a Python/PHP library for real-time yet I had to modify the existing libraries to support real time. This turned out to be trivial – I simply made a new {fetch_RT} function which looks much like the existing {fetch} function. With that complete I could simply use this modified PHP library to grab a user’s real-time stream.

As I mentioned earlier I already had an XMPP server running and had created a bot for other reasons. I simply re-used that bot and the over the network XML API defined by the bot to send the FriendFeed stream out as XMPP messages.

There are several important things to note here about the architecture:

  1. De-Coupling the FriendFeed real-time processes from the XMPP bot processes is a very efficient model.
  2. Keeping the XMPP stream bot a “dumb pipe” (i.e., outbound message streaming only) is also very efficient.
    1. Clicking on the link at the front of the XMPP message opens the FriendFeed “conversation” in a browser.
  3. Since FriendFeed is an aggregator, participation via XMPP will be very problematic.
    1. For Example: If the message is a tweet do you want to reply with a tweet – or comment on the tweet in FriendFeed’s conversation?
    2. The bot would have to track a large number of variables for each message in order to properly distribute your comment/message/etc.
    3. This overhead would directly affect the ability of the service to scale.
  4. The scope of the feed (e.g., the apple room or My Home feed or my “the cool people list”) and the keywords for which you’d like an XMPP notification would be configured via a web interface.
    1. This – again – goes directly to keeping the service as scalable as possible.
    2. The down side is you can’t change scope or keywords via XMPP messages.
    3. There is the possibility of creating a separate “ffstreamcontrol” bot which would take these commands. It remains to seen if this is really required or a nice to have.
  5. Since the stream bot acts as a dumb pipe – it can rapidly scale by running multiple instances with the same UID and a different resource string. You won’t know (or care) which bot you are connected to – they all look the same. If one dies – the FriendFeed real-time processes will be programed to try the next one… and the next one… etc.
    1. Again – this is a very efficient model.
    2. Will provide high levels of redundancy
  6. The bots will all connect to a dedicated XMPP server – the XMPP messages will then be distributed via XMPP federation.
    1. XMPP federation protocols are very efficient.

The Plan:

My current plan is to build something similar to what you see below. The user will create XMPP streams based on scope (i.e., FriendFeed scope – For Example: the Debates 2008 room) and keyword(s). The user will be allowed multiple XMPP streams. All XMPP stream creation, deletion and modification will be done via a web interface.

The XMPP bot(s) will serve as a dumb pipe for content delivery.

Participation is problematic – and as such will be set aside for now. User’s can still participate by clicking on the link in the XMPP message – this link will open the FriendFeed conversation (here is one for example). This will allow the user to participate, subscribe to the user’s involved in the conversation, etc.


Please feel free to comment – let me know if you think this is headed in the right direction.
NOTE: This was written very quickly based on a prototype made yesterday. Please excuse any less than completely thought through concepts… it is a work in progress.

54 Hours To Build A Company: A Look At Startup Weekend Phoenix

TechCrunch coverage of Phoenix Startup Weekend… Yeah – I was there working on Reserve Chute!!!

Twitrratr gets a nice bump… nice job guys.

Go Phoenix!

It’s been some time since we last covered Startup Weekend, a series of events that bring a roomful of developers and entrepreneurs together to develop new startups in only 54 hours. When the program originally launched last year, each weekend was geared towards building a single application, of which every participating member was a cofounder. Since then the format has changed – multiple companies are created at each event, and they don’t have to incorporate at the end of the weekend. Here’s a handful of the companies founded at last weekend’s event, which was held in Phoenix.


With so much of our essential data making its way to the cloud, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to quickly make a local backup. Reserve Chute, an open source web app that will be available for use in the next few weeks, will automatically make backups of popular cloud based services including Gmail, Twitter, and Basecamp.

It’s unlikely that any of these services will be going out of business in the foreseeable future, and they almost certainly have redundant backup systems in place. But the prospect of having my entire photo collection or Email history wiped out is unnerving – having an easy way to back up these services would definitely give users some peace of mind, even if they never had to use it.

My Shelter Helper

My Shelter Helper is web page builder aimed to help animal shelters establish a presence on the web. Shelters can logon and after entering some basic information like their address and telephone number will be presented with a functional and good looking website. It’s a great idea, and I love the tagline: “Helping save animal’s lives.”

For now the service is generating some pretty barebones sites, but will introduce support for donations so that shelters can easily collect from benevolent animal lovers worldwide. I hope the team keeps working on this – anything that helps animals is a good thing, and plenty of people (like my mother, for example) would love to donate to their local animal shelter along with the national organizations.


Awful domain name aside, the Twittrratr team has actually built a pretty cool Twitter site. After entering any keyword, Twittrratr will find related tweets and attempt to figure out if the subject is being spoke about in a positive or negative light. It’s a good idea but unfortunately it doesn’t work very well – oftentimes words that Twittrratr associates with a negative tweet aren’t being used to describe the keyword that was searched for. The team acknowledges that the system isn’t perfect and is open to suggestions (it’s still pretty impressive for 54 hours from conception to launch).

[From 54 Hours To Build A Company: A Look At Startup Weekend Phoenix]

What did you do last weekend?

I hope you had fun. I was at Phoenix Startup Weekend working with a team of smart, energized people to create a new company in a single weekend.

The result – Reserve Chute – is sheer genius.

This one time, at Phoenix Startup Weekend ( actually held in Chandler, AZ, a band of brothers, and one sister, came together to create a new company called Reserve Chute. With it’s main offering a personalized data backup service that permits users to grab their data from online sources like GMail and others and save them to a storage device of their choice. This is one cool and innovative service that should be on your “Must Have” list. Your data on your terms for when Web 2.0 becomes Web 2 point Oh no! What more could you ask for. For more information, visit and sign-up for this unique and powerful service offering.

If you use online applications to run your business you need to check Reserve Chute out. It might be the best thing you ever do for your business.

The following photos are courtesy of Adam Nollmeyer – Thanks Adam. You can find Adam’s work here.

UPDATE – The photos below are actually courtesy of ccl1111 – you can find his photos here. Adam’s photos are still great… be sure to check them out as well.

200810201001.jpg 200810201003.jpg


Can we please stop talking about monetization?

I can’t take it anymore – I just can’t.

NOTE – this post was triggered by a fine post (and subsequent FriendFeed discussion) by Mark Evans – which you can find here.

The idea that you can create a “cool” service, attract massive numbers of subscribers, and then monetize the subscriber base is insane. Always was, always will be. But it is the Google model. They created a web search service (cool) and then once they became a powerful player in web search they became an ad platform (monetization) – right?

That however, is a myth. The reality is Google was solving a real, important problem. The web was growing really fast. Creating a way for people to find the content they were looking for was a known problem with existing solutions (remember Yahoo and Excite were already out there). The existing solutions were already generating revenue – by placing adds in their content (remember the whole aggregating eyeballs thing?). What Google did was create a better search solution (product innovation) and refine the exiting business model from ad placement (putting ads on your blog) to becoming an ad platform (business model innovation).

So the reality of Google is that they solved an important problem via product innovation and solved an important problem via business model innovation – by creating an advertising platform which could be leveraged by any advertiser.

But the myth is so much more fun – couple of guys create a really cool way to index the web for relevance and everyone wants to use it. Now they can figure out how to make money. We all took the bait. The Bubble 2.0 story became “create a cool service, generate buzzz, aggregate tons of users, and then generate revenue”.

Here is the bad news – that is the same myth that created Bubble 1.0 – remember? Bubble 1.0 said – “Don’t worry about revenues – just grow really, really fast – once you have lots of growth revenue and profits will come.”

As Britney Spears would say “oooops, I did it again“.

What is real is that the winners solve important problems that have enough value that people will pay for them. Finding a business online (Google) – huge problem, great solution = $$$. Selling stuff I don’t want/need to someone, anywhere who does want/need it for as much as possible (eBay) – huge problem, great solution = $$$.

So let’s make a deal. Let’s stop talking about “cool” services, how fast they are generating page views or subscriber growth or any other measure until they tell us how they are going to make money. Let’s get back to creating services that generate value for the prospective customer – value that they are willing to pay for (again – ad placement is just a way of getting your user to pay for the service).

It isn’t important that the first business model is the “right” business model. What is important is that we are re-focusing all of our frenetic energy on what really matters.


A Return to Sensibility

In some very important ways the current financial crisis is a good thing. First, it will preemptively pop the Web 2.0 bubble. Why is that important? Well – and this is just my opinion – we’ve returned to the same type of fundamental philosophy we saw in the Dot Com bubble – version 1.0 was “get big fast”; version 2.0 is “business model isn’t important – figure that out once you’ve aggregated lots of subscribers”.

When you boil both of them down you see the same fundamental flaw – failure to plan for success. To be clear – by success I mean a profitable business.

Second, it will – hopefully – result in a fundamental change in the US economy. For the last three years American families have been spending more than they make. Our government has been doing the same thing since 1980 (with a brief respite during the Clinton administration). We have to start balancing consumerism with savings. That means credit will be harder to get and more expensive. That means that businesses will have to be prepared to face stiffer competition for scarce consumer dollars.

But most of all, it means innovators and entrepreneurs will have to begin by determining if they are creating and delivering something that adds value and, as importantly, is that value something their customers will be willing to put hard dollars on the counter to get.

I actually welcome both of these changes. Will it make the odds of success longer, yes.

That being said, if you can return to the fundamentals:

  • Solve important problems
  • Meet unmet needs
  • Create value added services over commodity services
  • Focus on delivering value your customers will trade for dollars
  • Focus on long term growth (not next year’s exit)

You can still found and grow a successful company.

Invest Southwest names presenters

Invest Southwest announced the presenting companies for the 2008 Invest Southwest Conference.

Congratulations to these firms.

Thirteen firms made the cut for December’s Invest Southwest conference.

Organizers for the annual event, which aims to pair promising new technology firms with investors who can help finance future growth, have announced which companies will be presenting.

The finalists were selected from about 80 applicants.

Most of the companies are Arizona-based. Nearly all of them focus on software development or biotechnology.

Here’s the list:

* Captivemotion LLC – The Tempe-based firm uses technology to study facial motions for video games and movies.

* CellTrust Corp. – The Scottsdale-based company provides security software to protect data that is transmitted mobilely.

* Clareity Security – The Scottsdale firm provides identity fraud protection services for the real estate and financial services industries.

* Consolidated Energy Systems LLC – The company in Salt Lake City, Utah is developing a patent-pending process to convert pretroleum coke into fuel for modified diesel engines.

* Grip (R) – The Glendale-based firm provides software systems for businesses in the audiovisual industry.

* iMemories – Based in Scottsdale, the company convers home movies and photos to DVD and hosts consumers’ content online for sharing.

* Medipacs – The Tucson biotech firm has developed programmable infusion pumps for medical use.

* MedTrust Online LLC – The Scottsdale company operates an online community for doctors.

* nanoMR Inc. – The Albuquerque, N.M. firm is developing a replacement for traditional blood cultures that takes less time to develop.

* Octopi LLC – The Tucson company business develops online video games.

* Protein Genomics – Based in Sedona, the company says it has developed the first commercially viable human elastin protein for wound care and regenerative medicine.

* Solar-Breeze LLC – The Phoenix-based firm says it has developed the first solar-powered robotic pool-skimmer.

* Unima Integral Biosecurity – The Jalisco, Mexico-based firm is developing products to control food-borne illnesses in the food-production industry.

To qualify, companies must be seeking between $250,000 and $5 million in financing.

The company’s officers will spend the next several weeks honing their business plans and crafting their investor pitches.

The conference will take place Dec. 11-12 at the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North.

[From Invest Southwest names presenters for VC conference]