justSignal Demo 09 Demo – Have your data and eat it too!

On February 25th I put up a justSignal Tracker for Demo 09. I had fun today watching the tracker (you can find it here) reel off all the tweets about Demo and the presentations as they happened.

With all due respect to Demo and Facebook the experience with the Facebook Connect widget was, by comparison, lacking.

But that isn’t what I want to tell you about. I’ve decided to make all of the data collected by our justSignal Tracker available for anyone to analyze, hack, present, mash-up and innovate against. To that end I’m putting up an XML file which you can download here containing about 3100 tweets collected through 5pm Pacific today (March 2nd 2009).

Here is the challenge – Parse the data, tell us who gets mentioned most, most good mentions, most bad mentions, most whatever. Make it enlightening. All I ask is that when you publish your site/data you give attribution to justSignal by saying we collected and provided the data for you.

This file is not complete, but will give you a chance to digest the format and begin your development efforts so that when the daily files are released early Tuesday and Wednesday you can grab them an go right to work.

Those files will be linked to in this post (at the end with “UPDATE” by them) – so check back to get the full data for today before 9am Pacific on March 3rd.

I did, just because I’m nosy, take a look at a thing or two in the data:

  • Top 5 Demo Tweeters
    1. nanpalmero – 197
    2. demochatter – 159
    3. larrymagid – 42
    4. ejosowitz – 42
    5. and the irrepressible Rafe – 36
  • Total RE-Tweets: 176
  • Most Replied To:
    1. Rafe – 11
    2. sarahintampa – 10
    3. nanpalmero – 8
    4. podboy – 7
    5. demochatter – 6

I did take a peek at mentions for specific presenters/companies… but I’ll leave that to the developers out there…

After the jump I’ll provide some info on the data file format. Show us what you can do!!!

UPDATE: Here is the first full file. This is every tweet for Demo 09 on March 2nd, 2009.UPDATE: Here is the second full file. This is every tweet for Demo 09 on March 3rd, 2009

Continue reading “justSignal Demo 09 Demo – Have your data and eat it too!”

You just don’t get me…

The thing about innovation – is that it really isn’t innovation if everyone you pitch it to immediately “gets it”.

Which creates a nice piece of circular logic – I’m innovating, so no one will understand. Since no one understands I must be innovating. Which is – as my grandmother used to say – happy horse-shit.

Innovation is built on commonly held premises. If you want to know if your problem is people not “getting it” because it is innovative – and thus beyond the range of their current world view- talk to them about the premises that led you to the innovation.

I spent lunch today talking to two very smart people about the future of communications – and that applications are the future, networks will be commodities. And that conversation was ok… where I think I lost them is when I moved to a user centered application development approach for communications.

All of a sudden we weren’t talking about how to let users use features of the network (as an application) and instead we were talking about leveraging the network as a tool to solve important problems for the customer via applications.

The innovation is an application first (as opposed to network first) communications model. A model that assumes the network is commoditized and ubiquitous. This breaks hundreds of years (in telecommunications) of business model and world view. Generally speaking that world view gap is what allows – or prevents – a person from “getting it” when it comes to your innovation.

The important part is that the premises you based the innovation on still garner nods of agreement. If they do – you are innovating. If they don’t it might just be an idea that legitimately makes no sense.

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 (http://phoenix.startupweekend.com) 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 http://www.reservechute.com 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.


More articles predicting doom for startups

I feel like the grim reaper here… really I’m not throwing myself out a window.

So why am I posting these? it is important for entrepreneurs to NOT bury their heads in the sand.

I would also take a moment to point out that the majority of this news is coming from Silicon Valley – by far the easiest place to raise capital. If you are not based in Silicon Valley the news is probably worse.

The important thing is not to panic and plot a course of action TODAY – What should you do – you can start by reading Ron Conway’s letter to the companies he has invested in. I’m following this advice – and you should too.

Sorry, Startups: Party’s Over – Silicon Alley Insider

Sequoia Capital, best known during this bubble as the guys who backed YouTube, gathered some of their startups Tuesday for an emergency meeting. “The attendees were greeted by a cute image of a Grave Stone, with a message: R.I.P.: Good Times,” Om Malik reports.

Super Angel Ron Conway To Would-Be Startups: Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs – Silicon Alley Insider

Different story, says Ron Conway, who is perhaps the most famous angel investor in tech these days. Ron is best known for making very early and very lucrative bets on Google and PayPal, but he’s also known as one of the most adventurous angels of Bubble 2.0, and has invested in 130 companies since 2005. We asked him for his advice to would-be-startups last night, and he wasn’t nearly as encouraging:

“I would tell (entrepreneurs) to keep their day job until they got one year of funding, and if they couldn’t get that, then they’re not meant to start that company right now…. My advice to (start ups that don’t have a year’s worth of money in the bank) would be to raise money by reducing your own spending. If you can’t raise more money, you have to cut costs. And that’s what I’m harping on to my companies.”

Fred Wilson: My Thoughts On ‘Startup Depression’– Silicon Alley Insider

All startups are going to have to batten down the hatches, get leaner, and work to get profitable, but the venture backed startups are going to get more time to get through this process than those that are not venture backed. Here’s why.

Venture capital firms are largely flush with capital from sources that are mostly rock solid. If you look back at the last market downturn, most venture capital firms did not lose their funding sources (we did at Flatiron but that’s a different story). If you are an entrepreneur that is backed by a well established venture capital firm, or ideally a syndicate of well established venture capital firms, then you have investors who have the capacity to support your business for at least 3-5 years (for most companies).

Innovation and Entrepreneurship require Optimism

It has been an interesting few weeks… no? As a Entrepreneur and Innovator who left a comfortable job at a Fortune 500 Silicon Valley software company to follow the dream of starting my own company – I can tell you the last few weeks have been rough.

  • Will capital completely dry up?
  • Will any micro businesses form – and if they do will they still find enough value in the services cosinity provides?
  • How can I best conserve my resources for the next year (or God forbid 2 years) to catch the rebound?
  • Is there any way to protect my assets from my house and startup?

And most disturbingly – I’ve had to consider shelving cosinity all together to protect my personal assets and my family. You see there is a reason I’m approaching 40 and just now starting my first business.

When I was young – probably 3 or 4, it was about 1974 – I remember my parents both lost their jobs at the same time. Nothing shocking here – 1973/1974 were some tough economic times. It didn’t go well for us; we lost our house and just about everything else. My father had a paper route – I remember that because I used to go with him early in the morning to pick up the papers for his route. But my most distinct memory of that time was being in the car having a conversation with my parents about my jacket. It was winter in Minnesota and the zipper had broken on my jacket, but we couldn’t afford to buy a new one.

When I was 12 my father passed away – leaving us a $10,000 life insurance policy and a stack of debt. My mom – who made maybe 20k at the time – was left to raise 3 kids. There wasn’t a day that went by when money wasn’t a huge problem.

I’ve always wanted my own business. During college in Minnesota (or as I like to call it my misguided musician phase) I was the general manager of a family owned pizza joint. It was a great gig. It was owned by a father/son team who were both very italian and very eccentric – we simply called them Sr. and Jr.

Jr. became like a father to me. At one point helping me investigate the possibility of buying my own pizza joint in an adjacent suburb. You know that book – the one that says you learned everything you really need to know in kindergarten? Well I learned – nearly – everything I would ever need to know about running a business at that pizza joint. It is where I fell in love with doing all the things required to own and run small business.

It taught me the simple things that we – so often – in the Silicon Valley echo chamber seem to forget.

  • You have to make money – or you are going out of business.
  • The only asset you have that matters is your customers and their goodwill.
  • The only path to success is hard work.
  • Employees will work their butt off – provided they know what they are working for.

If you want to know or understand my motivations – put those two influences in a martini shaker and mix thoroughly.

more after the jump…

Continue reading “Innovation and Entrepreneurship require Optimism”

AZ Governor innovation finalists announced

Congratulations to the winners listed below.

I’m glad to see the state government recognizing innovation in Arizona. Now we just need to convince our legislators to get serious about passing the legislation needed to attract capital investment in Arizona startups.

Winners in categories including Community Service Leader of the Year, Young Innovator of the Year and Green Innovator of the Year – new for this year’s contest – will be announced at a awards banquet on Nov. 13 at the Dodge Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

The other finalists are:

William F. McWhortor Community Service Leader of the Year:

– Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare

– Jeff Morhet, InNexus Biotechnology Inc.

– Terree Parlett Wasley, ASU Technopolis

Ed Denison Business Leader of the Year:

– Steve Irons, ImageTag, Inc.

– Roy Vallee, Avnet, Inc.

– Jeff Morhet, InNexus Biotechnology Inc.

Pioneering Innovation:

– Telesphere

– Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems

– Microsoft Corp.

Green Innovator of the Year:

– i-Linc

– Trilogy by Shea Homes

– Global Research Technologies LLC

Innovator of the Year (small company):

– Succeed Corp.

– Kutta TechnologiesInc.

– Infusionsoft

Innovator of the Year (large company):

Raytheon Missile Systems

– IBM Corp.

Innovator of the Year (academia):

Phoenix Mars Mission (University of Arizona)

– Arizona Biodesign Institute (Arizona State University)

– Center for Applied Nanobioscience (Arizona State University)

“Best of the Best” of the Arizona Engineering and Science Fairs (grades 9-12):

– Steven Fan, Tucson High Magnet School

– Shemonti Hasan, Hamilton High School

– Adrian Laurenzi, Tucson High Magnet School

– Smitha Ramakrishna, Coronoa del Sol High School

Teacher of the Year Award Winner:

– Kenneth Zeigler, Eagle Point School

[From Governor’s innovation finalists announced]

Vision, Innovation and what you think you are doing…

The single biggest barrier to innovation is a lack of imagination. The second biggest barrier is the failure to commit to your imagined future state when everyone else tells you that you’ve got it wrong; that you are not making sense; that investors “won’t get it” or some other variation on the theme.

As Seth Godin put it today:

When an engineer has a proven ability to ship stuff, to keep things humming and not crashing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of rejecting anything that hasn’t demonstrated that it can work, that hasn’t proven itself in the market.

Competence is not the same thing as imagination.

PS the marketing elite have precisely the same problem.

[From The small-minded vision of the technology elite]


Sounds simple, but it is why have we so many things touted as innovation that don’t pass the sniff test:

  • We innovated our data center infrastructure by moving our data center to Washington state.
  • We innovated voice communications by sending voice over an IP network.
  • We innovated <insert sector here> software by creating online <insert sector here> software.

It is also why so many of the exciting new products (yes, I’m talking about TechCrunch50) are, well, underwhelming:

  • Twitter for corporate use – THE WINNER
    • Apparently just presenting Twitter + an actual Business Model is enough to be best of TC50
  • BlahGirls – Really?
  • iCharts

more after the jump…

Continue reading “Vision, Innovation and what you think you are doing…”

Seth Godin & the Myth of Launch PR

I love reading Seth’s posts. He always manages to shine a light on something that is not only true… but also leads us to think beyond marketing and PR and ask some fundamental questions about why we are entrepreneurs and how we create a business.

New startups can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars racing after a dream: a giant splash on launch.

Just imagine… a big spread in Time Magazine, a feature on all the relevant blogs, a glowing review in the Book Review. Get this part right and everything else takes care of itself.

And yet.

Here are some brands that had no launch at all: Starbucks, Apple, Nike, Harry Potter, Google, William Morris, The DaVinci Code, Wikipedia, Snapple, Geico, Linux, Firefox and yes, Microsoft. (All got plenty of PR, but after the launch, sometimes a lot later).

I’m as guilty as the next entrepreneur. Great publicity is a treasured gift. But it’s hardly necessary, and the search for it is often a significant distraction.

It works for movies, in fact, it’s essentially required for movies. But for just about every product, service or company, the relentless quest for media validation doesn’t really pay. If you get it, congratulations. If you don’t, that’s just fine. But don’t break the bank or your timetable in the quest.

[From The myth of launch PR]

No question – Seth is right.

Here is the big question… Why do you WANT that big launch PR splash?

You say “because it is great for the company”:

The fact is… even if you get it, you are probably not ready for it. Point of reference – Cuil. Cuil had great launch buzz. Made a huge splash – and an ever louder thud when the reality failed to meet the buzz. Maybe the product is great, maybe not… but if you are not ready (technology, process and people) to handle the rush of interest and the glare of the spotlight it really won’t matter.

And let’s face it… that giant thud is very, very hard to come back from. So before you go off feeding the hype machine be sure you can deliver (technology, process and people) the goods… otherwise you’ll just get exposed.

So, what is your motivation? Here is the dirty little secret every entrepreneur needs to acknowledge, understand and guard against.

That PR splash – it isn’t about the company… it is about YOU.

YOU want to look like a genius… YOU want to be the new darling of the Silicon Valley echo chamber… YOU want to get invited to the Googleplex to have lunch with Sergey and Larry… YOU want Sand Hill Road to beat a path to your door…

And that is great… congratulations. But what you forgot is that building a company has nothing to do with any of that. It is about creating an offering backed by a company (again, technology, process and people) that can deliver on it. It is about delivering value to your customers. PR and Marketing are supposed to help you make the company visible and compelling to potential customers… not boost your self-image.

It isn’t about YOU.

America’s Innovation Deficit

Judy Estrin – former Cisco CTO – has written a book entitled Closing the Innovation Gap.

She is Featured today in a article at Wired.

America is facing an innovation crisis. To fix it, corporations need to find new ways of funding fundamental research into physics and environmental sciences.

There is no question this is true. If you operate outside the echo chamber of the Bay Area you know this is the case. We have completely abandoned fundamental research in basic science. With China and India churning out advanced degrees in science and engineering at fantastic rates the numbers in the US continue to decline. While we continue to price our children out of higher education while other countries seek to educate their way of third world status.

It is even worse in the corporate world:

“Corporations focused on efficiencies and productivity started to make research more short term and tailored to the company’s needs,” says Estrin in an interview with Wired.com, “with the result that most research done at corporations now is applied research.”

Neglecting research in basic science also has big repercussions for computing and other applied science areas, because many innovations, such as the transistor, originated in basic research, not applied research.

So new innovation models have to be created to fill the vacuum created by the cutbacks in corporate research spending, says Estrin.

The net effect of this is that the base innovation fired by research is being done outside the US. Most of our large established corporations are openly hostile to innovation (see the behavior of the telecoms where VoIP is concerned). Our patent system has become a significant barrier to research and innovation – not because you might get sued by a patent holding company, but because of the risk injected into the process of innovation.

This is what happens when you are so busy protecting what you have that you fail to recognize what comes next.

Read the article and the book…