“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

PodTech:LunchMeet: Tracking Memes with Tailrank

Posted by direwolff on July 10, 2007

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Just found this interview with Kevin Burton and Jonathan Moore off of Kevin’s blog and thought I’d repost it here as it provides a great description of how Spinn3r came to be, and how Tailrank works. As some of you may know, I’ve been a very big fan of Kevin’s and what he’s been up to here and have also lent a hand where possible to get some deals nailed down for him. He and Jonathan are doing a great job scaling the platform and providing real value that will become more and more apparent as they approach the 10M blog URL index they’re shooting for.


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Good Advice From Andreessen to Entrepreneurs

Posted by direwolff on July 3, 2007

Marc Andreessen is on a roll as far as I’m concerned. His blog has quickly become a must read one for me and with every post I can’t wait to read it. He always provides solid insights and is never condescending to the reader, but always writes with an earnestness and directness that can only be welcomed. To call him a straight shooter would be an understatement, especially considering the tag line he uses, “Often wrong, never in doubt”. You gotta love that.

Anyway, it’s with this introduction that I’d strongly recommend to any entrepreneurs out there that they read his latest post (part 6) from his The Pmarca Guide to Startups series, titled “How much funding is too little? Too much?“.

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Boy, what’s an entrepreneur to do with all of this conflicting advice

Posted by direwolff on June 26, 2007

With the jump in activity from my recent work with Loyalty Lab, it’s taken its toll on my blog reading. It’s been worth it in some ways because I believe that retention marketing or permission marketing or loyalty marketing or whatever you want to call it, holds the key to some of the overarching privacy issues that are mounting on the Internet and legislatively. Issues that I expect will affect all sites and services that track users/members/buyers’ movements online without providing for a way to opt-out. But more on that in a future post.

The first blog I caught up with was Chris Law’s blog, 1000 Flowers Bloom. He doesn’t post very frequently, but I always enjoy reading when he does. I had the privilege of working with Chris at Tribe, and followed his and Paul Martino’s travails into Aggregate Knowledge, and his blog is my small way of keeping up with him. In Chris’ latest post, “Won’t you just get acquired“, he refers to a post by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on MediaShift. Jennifer reflects in her post that a panel composed of Josh Koppelman, Julie Hanna Farris, and Paul Kedrosky seemed to agree with her take that many of the presenting companies at Supernova’s Connected Innovators session presented applications that were “features not a company”.

From here, I checked out Mark Pincus’ (another Tribe founder) latest post on “How NY is like burning man“, which provided the levity I needed to then go read Marc Andreessen‘s 13 blog posts since my last visit to his blog, which are always interesting and insightful. He’s getting lots of kudos from the blogosphere on the quality of his posts, and it’s well deserved. He’s one of those guys that “I remember when…” and he was bright then back in 1994, and he seems to have only gotten brighter with age. There were two new parts on his series, “The Pmarca Guide to Startups”. Because I was reading these on Google Reader, they were coming up in reverse chronological order, so I first caught part 4: The only thing that matters. Here Marc breaks down the components that most affect a start-up’s success as being, the team, the product and the market. It’s most certainly a worthwhile read, and while there are some assessments he makes that I’m not sure I fully agree with, his citing of Andy Rachleff’s Corollary of Startup Success, being “The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.“, is dead-on from my experience with start-ups as well. What’s appealing about this statement is that it reconciles my observations of start-up teams starting in one place and a year later evolving and finding their success in another area that they would never have reached had they not gone out to market and tinkered until they got the product/market mix right.

I then moved on to Marc’s “part 3: “But I don’t know any VCs”” post where towards the end he points readers to Sequoia’s Web site where they provide some very good guidelines for entrepreneurs who want to submit their business plans. Noteworthy to the title of my post, is under the “Elements of Sustainable Companies” column, the Focus item says “Customers will only buy a simple product with a singular value proposition.”.

The dichotomy that presents itself is that on the one hand some of the companies who appear to be very focused on a problem are being called features rather than companies (and accused of just wanting to get acquired, as though that should be a bad thing, without consideration that such an acquisition might occur as a result of the start-up addressing an unmet need for the acquirer), by some. On the other hand, we’re getting well heeled VCs advising focus and singular value propositions.

Somehow, in all of this, it’s the latter position that appeals to me the most, because I believe that even if an early stage company releases what is considered by some as only a feature, there’s a better chance of growing that into a company if you have the product right, than having what is considered a company and needing to change directions because the features aren’t quite there. As well, a good feature is more easily monetized than a company that may need to prove itself over a much longer period of time.

I guess the reality is that I also don’t think that Jennifer’s tone is about the whole feature thing is appropriate given that people build companies for many different reasons and shouldn’t be judged for those, (…hmmm…am I judging Jennifer here?…hmmm…).

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Congrats to the Healia team!!!

Posted by direwolff on June 18, 2007

A well deserved exit for Tom Eng and his group at Healia that has really worked their hearts out developing what I believe to be the highest quality healthcare search engine.

Meredith Acquires Health Vertical Search Engine Healia

Furthers goal to reach more American women via digital platforms

DES MOINES, IA/BELLEVUE, WA (June 18, 2007) – Meredith Corporation (NYSE:MDP), one of America’s leading media and marketing companies, today announced the acquisition of Healia (, a consumer health search engine specializing in finding high quality and personalized health information online. Terms were not disclosed and the transaction will not have a material financial effect on Meredith.  (More…)

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Elementeo’s 13 year old founder & CEO

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2007

What’s there not to like about a 13 year old kid with this much enthusiasm and natural ability as an entrepreneur.  I for one, am jealous :)

Check him out:


My favorite line is, “I want to get one million dollars in revenue by the end of middle school”.  Now that’s focus and a solid understanding for the importance of revenues.  I’m betting he’ll do it.

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Two wonderful mentions of Healia within a week

Posted by direwolff on May 8, 2007

How cool is that? Healia continues as the little healthcare search engine that could. While I’ve recently discussed how they are a good example of role-based search, it appears that I’m not the only one who sees this as they received a major endorsement in winning the Outstanding Achievement Award for Health Search Web Site from the Interactive Media Awards. CEO and founder Tom Eng has worked tirelessly to get Healia to the next level and it’s so great to see his efforts rewarded this way. I’m still surprised that Microsoft acquired Medstory when Healia was right in their back yard in Seattle with a superior service and user experience.

Healia was also mentioned in Read/Write Web blog post titled, Top 17 Search Innovations Outside of Google. Healia appears under innovation #14, “Results refinement and Filters”. Healia could have actually qualified for mentions in several of the other categories as well, but just the fact that they were considered in one of these speaks loads to what Tom and his team have accomplished to date.

Under full disclosure, I’m on the company’s advisory board, and have had the unique opportunity to see as they’ve improved their service over the past year. Very exciting. They’re also beginning to win contracts over other search service providers, so we know they’re heading in the right direction. It’s a challenging space, but the Healia team has shown the perserverance necessary to succeed. I’m looking forward to continuing to watch them get discovered by more and more people.

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My 15 seconds of fame at the SF New Tech Meetup

Posted by direwolff on April 11, 2007

As I mentioned in my “SF New Tech Meetup – 4/07” post, Adriana Gascoigne interviewed me for Well, just got the link on YouTube and I’m the second presenter interviewed in the following video:

I really gotta sharpen up my elevator pitch as this just made the Readware technology just seem too undifferentiated. Oh well, there has to be a first time out there so as to improve for the second, third and fourth I guess :)

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SF NewTech Meetup – 4/07

Posted by direwolff on April 7, 2007

Last Wednesday I presented the Readware technology at SF New Tech Meetup. It was a bit surreal as it was nothing like I expected. First off, Myles Weissleder, whom I recently met and was gracious enough to invite me to present had mentioned that it would be an intimate affair (of course a week earlier he sent me a BBC article that covered the event and was surely going to bring more attention to it…it did). Second, I’ve only had to be rescued by a boat during a kitesurfing session at Crissy Field 3 times in the 6 years I’ve been riding there, this Wednesday was the third (good ol’ Murphy’s Law standing by hen you need it). Third, 5 minutes for a presentation requires a dedicated focus on a short message or purely on a demo, trying show any sort of Powerpoint is a mistake and that short of a time…I made a mistake :)With that said, I was off to the races. After me and 3 other kitesurfing buddies got fished out of the SF Bay by the Coast Guard and dropped on shore at 6:15pm, I managed to get dressed and over to the event with 15 minutes to spare. A bit frazzled mind you, but no matter I was there. As I walked in the room, it began to have distinctive less than intimate feel to it as there were a lot more people there than I thought would be attending. Not that I have a problem presenting to larger groups, it’s just nice to be mentally prepared for it. I basically zoned out of the scene while preparing so as to get overwhelmed. Of course this zoning was not to last as I was approached by the Valley A-Lister, Adriana Gascoigne of the video blog, who was interviewing all of the presenters and I was next up. “Interview?!!…what interview?! Yikes!”. Well, if things weren’t getting too weird for me yet, it was more as a result of not being intoxicated or medicated, ’cause everything else was definitely lining up to feel like altered states. Fortunately, Lil’ Pinot showed up like a warm blanket thrown over my shoulders to ease my nervousness. It felt good to have her there supporting me, ’cause boy did I need it that night.

Exposing Readware is something I truly enjoy and feel passionate about, but at the same time, as we ease our way into finding the right business model and direction, I like to do this in intimate gatherings where I can somewhat steer the conversation. This was definitely more of a “let the chips land where they may” type of situation. The unfortunate part is that in trying to spend more time defining what Readware is, I only had the opportunity to expose people to the classification side of the technology and not to the discovery side, which often creates a bigger “aha!” moment. Oh well, considering it was my first outing in such a public forum, the interaction with the audience was engaging, the questions were smart, and those who approached me at the end seemed to have a genuine understanding for the technology’s applicability, which was comforting.

All-in-all, it was an enjoyable experience from which I learned as much as I hope the audience did. The other three companies presenting were, Merchant Cirle, and The SF New Tech Meetup provides a really cool format for people with ideas to present them, and I’d highly recommend it to any one even if your idea is half baked as there’s also a 60 second format at the end where any one can make any requests, talk about their start-up, recruit, asked to be recruited, or make an announcement. People used this time very creatively which was fun to see.

Rafe Needleman blogged about the event on Webware.

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Theseus Alum Makes Good

Posted by direwolff on March 6, 2007

Ziv Navoth was a Theseus Institute graduate student a year or two after my class of ’93/’94. He was a bright guy that I got to know virtually through his various endeavors from working in NYC with Prof. Mel Hortwitch, who had been an advisor to both of us in our respective years, to watching him grow his innovation focused management consulting firm, Verve!. Verve actually sends out a regular newsletter which is really interesting with excellent insights into innovation. With this focus it’s a good thing that Ziv attended Theseus, as the MBA back in our day, specialized in Innovation, Strategy and Information Technology. Theseus has since merged with EDHEC in Nice, France and continues as part of their executive MBA programme.

A few months ago, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a Verve newsletter in quite some time, but figured Ziv had moved on to other things. Well, the answer there is both yes and no. Yes he had been pre-occupied with some other things, and no he had not moved on, just was focusing on a very exciting project which has just come to fruition. Ziv created a book titled Nanotales which provides a compilation of the “lives and tribulations of 146 people”. Ziv’s new movement here and his coining of the term “nanotales” seems to be gaining momentum with even the community site Bebo facilitating nano-authors’ involvement. While I’m disappointed to see the newsletter get put on hold, it’s great to see Ziv really inspiring a whole new generation of people with this innovative new concept in publishing. Should be interesting to keep up with this new chapter in his life :)

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OpenBC, now Xing, now public

Posted by direwolff on December 27, 2006

This has to be the most underwritten story of this year. You’d think a social networking company like Xing, that competes with LinkedIn and goes public at 4.5x the valuation that LinkedIn got in its latest private equity financing round deserves some attention. As has been widely reported, LinkedIn’s valuation (I’m presuming post-money but I could be wrong) was $250M with a current base of 8.5 million members. Xing went public last week with a market capitalization of €157M (~ US$200M) with much fewer members. Here’s an excerpt:

OpenBC, which is rebranding as Xing, has around 1.5 million members, and was able to boost its revenues year-on-year from €1.6 million to just under €6 million at the end of the last fiscal year.

Now that should have been pretty newsworthy, but surprisingly even in Google News, you had to look down the page several results to find this story. In Techcrunch it wasn’t mentioned at all, except in the 82 comment made on the Yahoo! “Project Fraternity” Docs Leaked story . Mashable did pick up on it and devoted two-thirds of a post to the story.

What surprises me about the lack of discussion here is that Xing in effect has gotten a valuation of just over $137 per member compared with LinkedIn’s valuation of just under $31 per member. By these standards, LinkedIn’s investors got a heck of a deal. The closest comparable to Xing is Facebook if we consider the reported (in the same Techcrunch post from above) Yahoo! offer of $1.62B for their approximately 9 million members (~ $180 per member).

So the question I have, is why has this story not made more headlines? Heck, I couldn’t swing a stick in the blogosphere without running into the LinkedIn valuation story. Is it that it’s not an American thing? Given the reach that social networks are now getting geography should have little to do with it since all of these services are crossing borders. I’m puzzled by this because I knew this IPO was going to happen, but didn’t hear much talk about it before, during or since and am wandering how was such an important event towards the valuation of social networking businesses, not discussed more widely. Hmmmm…

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