Wednesday, March 28, 2007

UK leads in online advertising adoption

Today the FT reported, in the UK advertising online has passed national newspapers as a medium of choice for the first time.
"UK-based internet advertising grew 41.2 per cent to £2.02bn last year, compared with national newspapers' take of £1.9bn and declines in television and other mainstream advertising media."
This is really big news and further drives home a point made late last year by both Eric Schmidt and Terry Semel that the UK is really becoming a testbed for innovation in and the adoption of online advertising.

The UK now has 2x the penetration of online ads in terms of total ad budgets than the global average.

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We finally have a place online to keep track of all the OpenCoffee Clubs popping up all round the world.

Thanks to Peter Nixey of Sitefire, who created the Ning group and Eoghan McCabe, who created the logo and is behind Dublin's OpenCoffee Club for helping to pull it all together.

Personally I think Ning has quite a bit to offer - it is simple to use and very powerful. We can pull in feeds from flickr, upcoming and meetup and give people to give a little more information about themselves and have a chance to interact in a forum. Hopefully it will make for quite a vibrant environment so different OCCs to connect and learn more about each other.

Ning is still very much in its infancy however and certainly one of its current drawbacks from my point of view is that is doesn't have an easy or more importantly open editing format like a wiki.

In my mind the simplicity and openness of a wiki has a lot to recommend it but most of the people I've canvassed at this stage feel that Ning is a richer experience.

Please let me know what you think and if anyone wants to build an OCC wiki, I'd be delighted to discuss how we can make this happen.

In the meantime, enjoy your local OpenCoffee Clubs and send the word around that people can now connect globally through If you want your local OCC listed let me know or just start tagging flickr, technorati and upcoming entries with "opencoffee".

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Imagini in Alexa's Top 5 Movers & Shakers

Imagini, a start-up in which TAG has a small investment, has really caught fire in the last month with its simple but clearly addictive visual social network service.

This week they made it along with Twitter and CBS who is covering March Madness into Alexa's Top 5 Movers & Shakers.

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OpenCoffee keeps growing

We kicked off OpenCoffee Club four weeks ago in London and since then the spread of the concept has been fantastic.

New events this week include Geneva and Boston.

Check out what happening at some of the events going on or planned (let's keep them rolling) in:
Please tag your events "opencoffee" on Technorati, Flickr and Upcoming etc so we can aggregrate information more readily.

Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to make tomorrow's London event but I know the Starbucks on Regent St will be buzzing with our growing crowd and including some great new faces in London tomorrow like Mobile 2.0 guru Tony Fish and Fergus Burns from Ireland who is pionerring some really interested syndicated e-commerce with Nooked. I'll be back next week though, looking forward to seeing how some of the debutants from OpenCoffee's first week like

I'm really thrilled this simple idea of getting people together seems to have met a real need. is imminent - I promise :)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The falling price of failure

Josh Kopelman has written an excellent post on why it's cheaper and faster to fail in today's market and the positive effects this can have on innovation.
"Companies used to waste millions of dollars of VC money – and entrepreneurs used to waste years of their lives – working on a failed hypothesis. Now, the cycle is much shorter."
Like Josh, I remember the cost of doing business in the 90s when it really did cost a lot of money to build a web business: Sun (or even worse, Digital) hardware, Oracle software and sky-high marketing costs were all significant drain on the bottom-line.

There are some key concepts to grasp.
  1. It's ok to fail - we are terrible at appreciating this in Europe where people are often so afraid of failure they end up not even trying
  2. The cheaper it is to fail, the more ideas we can test
  3. There's a big difference between an idea and a business
A few weeks ago in my long post about Y Europe can seed new stars I tried to make a similar point, which may have been lost but which I believe in very deeply:
Starting small doesn't mean that you're not going to need funding to hire and scale up if you have a real business to pursue, but what it does mean is that you can find out very quickly and cheaply if your idea has traction. There is a big difference between an idea (which is easy to discard) and a business that has taken on people, costs and commitments (which is very hard to discard both rationally and emotionally).

We have a great opportunity today to test more ideas, which we can do very quickly and cheaply, and start businesses which have a better chance of succeeding.
I really hope we can adopt these lessons and leverage the really exciting new funding cycle that Josh highlights in this very cool and excellent chart from Peter Fenton.

Let me know what you think.

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Keeping cool on green issues

If like most people you meet nowadays, especially those standing for elected office, you are keen to stay on top of everything green, you should check out the Treehugger Grndx powered by Daylife.

It's a live view on all green-related news online and one of the growing number of easy to create newsware applications made using the Daylife API.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Second London OpenCoffee Club keeps buzzing

Thanks to everyone who came along to our second OpenCoffee Club last Thursday. Once again we blew away Starbucks' daily numbers (we were over 6x their normal revenues).

We had another great turnout with an eclectic crowd of entrepreneurs, investors, developers and marketers, plus London's startup movers and shakers including Robert, Sam and Judith.

What really stood out for me this week was the feeling of people clustering into short meetings and really getting work done. OpenCoffee is deliberately during the day to encourage real professional networking rather than social networking - so the vibe of people getting things done and making connections is really excellent.

For entrepreneurs looking for feedback or advice on funding, again there was a great turnout from investors with Nic (Espirit), Avid (Accel), Greg & Danny (Index), Steve (DN Capital), Robin (TAG) and John (Folio) all coming along. New and very welcome this week were Adam (Arts Alliance) and Mark from Venrex who have invested in Smythsons and Astley Clarke.

There are some really interesting young entrepreneurs around London at the moment and this week Douglas (Extate), Ivailo (Zoomf), Immad (Revmap), Anthony (ParkatmyHouse), and Sumon (Jobably), Damien (New Bamboo) and Gareth (Technovate) were some of the folks around.

Two companies starting to generate significant buzz were there as well.

The first is an old timer: GNR, the folks behind .name are riding an enormous wave right now as Microsoft, AOL, Symantec, Digg & Netvibes pile into OpenID. The issue of digital identity is back to being front and centre again and Geir & Hakon are a great position.

The second is new: Imagini, which is currently one of the fastest growing UK web properties and who's Friend's service made the most popular story on Digg in the last 24 hours.

Next week sees more OpenCoffee including Palo Alto, Paris and Amsterdam. Sacramento, Dublin, Brighton and Zagreb are also on their way with conversations happening at the moment to look at setting things up in Hamburg, Tel Aviv and Stockholm.

OpenCoffee is easy to do - and whether there are 5 people or 50, it's all good - so make it happen locally wherever you are and push your local investors, entrepreneurs and developers to come along.

The wiki is on its way - it should debut next week. Please keep sending me feedback and comments so we can keep the momentum going.

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Imagini most popular digg story in last 24 hours

Imagini is on an absolute tear since it launched its extremely popular and viral "Imagini Friends" service which lets you find out more about yourself and make new friends based on how you respond to images.

Check out the story on digg...

And check out the Alexa chart, very nice curve :)

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Lovefilm starts TV ads

Lovefilm is obviously close to me heart and I'm thrilled that it's doing really well.

It is by far the largest online DVD rental player in Europe with operations in UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany.

The brand is moving into the mainstream and after years of successful online and direct marketing, the UK business has just started advertising on TV. See if you can recognize the voice...

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Having Fun with "Fear & Greed"

There is an interesting quote in Warren Buffet's annual shareholder letter this week - "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

Buffet makes this point specifically in relation to the insurance industry, but says it reflects his investment thesis in general.

It's interesting to think about how this maps against some of the great tools now freely available online for tracking trends (I've found them really useful over the years tracking brand buzz).

This is how Nielsen's Blogpulse sees it in the last 6 months: with big spikes for "fear" in the last week and back in September 2006 and a pretty flat, consistent and level buzz for "greed".

Nielsen tracks the blogosphere, which clearly has its own idiosyncrasies and subjectivity while Google Trends tracks apparently more objective sources with search and news.

The patterns are dissimilar, though with Google it seems that fear is decreasing - maybe the bloggers are more paranoid :)

Getting back to Buffet, does the stock market tell us anything - is it more or less objective than search, news or the blogosphere?

Looking at the dips in the NASDAQ and DOW composites in 2006 and in recent weeks it seems there is some correlation.

The publicly available versions of these tools are still fairly immature, but you can really start to have a lot of fun trend plotting.

How oftern do you use these tools? What more could they do and what do you think, not just in relation to fear, greed and the markets - but how Buffet's theory maps to the state of the Web market today.

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Moo takes Habbo & Second Life offline

We live more and more of out lives online these days - sharing photos, creating homepages, living in virtual worlds. Lucky Moo lets us take this digital life and bring back into the real world.

Moo is on a tear at the moment - having just launched partnership with Bebo, now members of Habbo and Second Life can make cute little cards to share their online identities with people.

If you haven't tried Moo, give it spin - I love the Flickr partnership which lets me point my Flickr photostream and create super cool personalized cards.

Check out what people are doing with it.

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Palo Alto's OpenCoffee Club

There are so many European entrepreneurs I speak to and meet who want to spend time in Silicon Valley - to visit, to work, to live - but they don't know how to get plugged in once they arrive.

So in the spirit of opening things up, Keith Teare will be hosting a weekly Palo Alto OpenCoffee Club on Tuesday between 830-100 at Deuce France in the Town & Country Village close to the intersection of El Camino Real & Embarcadero.

Keith is a serial entrepreneur and has been a founder on both sides of the Atlantic (easynet in the UK and now edgeio in SV), so he has a perfect perspective on the challenges and opportunities for folks coming new to the Valley and building teams, raising money etc. He's also a partner in Techcrunch so he's pretty plugged into what's going on in the startup scene.

There are a huge amount of startup events in the Valley, so the focus of the Palo Alto OpenCoffee Club is very much to help connect people from outside SV get connected in, but hopefully the informal nature of OpenCoffee will extend beyond this over time.

For now, if you're planning to travel to the Valley and are interested in the startup scene, pop by and say hello to Keith.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

OpenCoffee Club: structure vs free-form

People have been giving me some really fabulous feedback on OpenCoffee Club since the first meeting last Thursday. Phil Wilkinson has put up a really thoughtful post on his Crowdstorm blog.

Phil is a smart guy, who cares passionately about improving the scene here in Europe and he really gets the motivation behind OpenCoffee - in fact I couldn't have put it better myself:
"Imagine it more as a big open lounge where people come and go, talk to others in their industry, showcase demo’s of what they are working on, save the world, and ultimately maybe get some work done and run a few small meetings."
Phil also brings up some great points about the principles and spirit behind OpenCoffee Club which I wanted to comment on:
Let’s not treat it just another social networking event - if you don’t make it along, it’s not the end of the world - there’s one every week. You don’t have to go round speaking to everyone - sometimes it’s good to meet a few good people and a few in-depth discussions - the other people will probably be there next week!

>> Right on - the whole point is that OpenCoffee should feel like a public office for people interested in startups. One of the things I liked about last week was the lack of pressure because it's a regular occurrence in a regular place.

More demonstrations - let’s have more of these. We noticed one or two people going to one of the tables and just showing some new technology or even what they have been working on to-date. Definitely should be much more of this. You never know, it might stir some ideas for business partnerships with people or they may be able to match you with people who can help and enhance your offering. Plus, it’s much more fun!

>> Completely agree and I know there are other folks who want this as well. I think a good model is the one in NYC by my good friend, Scott Heiferman with his NYC Tech Meetups. I'm working on finding a good venue for this to tie into OpenCoffee (any offers let me know), but I also loved the informality last week of people just firing up their laptops and showing people what they're working on.

Never, ever, have name badges or colour coded tags: it’s not that type of event and never should be. It’s not even an event - it’s a place where internet people come and go for coffee, chat, and a cake.

>> Yes. Yes. Yes. I know a lot of peple have commented in our Meetup group that they'd like First Tuesday or FOWA like stickers - OpenCoffee is not this kind of an event, as Phil said it's a place and I like the idea that you have to find out what people do by actually (careful!) talking to them.

Filtering the people - which can be a bit controversial. Last week was perfect - a great blend of good people from our internet industry who could potentially add real value to someone else’s business or aspirations. Now, what I don’t want to see, and I’m sure everyone else feels the same, is a bunch of PR execs, recruiters & headhunters, or bob from the stationary department at big corp X coming along because they smell opportunity. If we want it to become the cult of e-cademy, then that’s the quickest way to go about it. Let’s just be polite but firm if they saunter on to our pad.

>> This is controversial. I have to say my view is no filtering - open means open, it's up to the people who come to do what Phil is and make sure we are making the most of it' Let's aim as Marc Eisenstadt for an"overwhelmingly positive can-do atmosphere, and the very high signal-to-noise ratio."

Journalists, VC’s, and Angels are more than welcome and we should help give them some fun and interesting stories, and opportunities. These guys often have a good perspective on the industry as a whole and are definitely worth talking to in the non-pitch sense. Remember, they’re here to take part too and get away from people trying to sell them things - at least for a few hours.

>> Of course they are welcome, we're helping to kick it off :) One of the big points for me with OpenCoffee is to make investment more transparent to entrepreneurs and exactly as Phil says, move away from the pitch to the conversation. Investors can give entrepreneurs really valuable feedback and hopefully in this environment this can happen in a pressure free way.
Phil also references Ben Metcalfe's views that we should look to sharing learning experience with the great talent in the US. I spent seven years working in the US from 1995-2002 at and with startups both big (Microsoft) and small (Firefly) - I learnt an enormous amount and still treasure and keep very active the relationships I developed.

We're so easily connected now I'd encourage anyone who's not experienced the buzz of a Silicon Valley start-up to get on a plane and spend a week out there meeting people. Keith Teare, someone who has experienced startups both in Europe (easynet) and the Valley (realnames, Techcrunch and edgeio) will be hosting an OpenCoffee Club especially for folks coming from outside the US looking to be plugged into the Valley.

In 10 days since OpenCoffee Club was announced we've had events in London and Dublin - there are also now events planned in Paris, Amsterdam, Cambridge, New York, Seattle and Boulder.

The enthusiasm is great and this completely in synch with vision of being able to go to any entrepreneurial hub and meeting other like-minded startup freaks - let's keep it rolling, and yes, the wiki is on it's way to connect us all up :)

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thanks for a great first OpenCoffee Club

Wow. Thanks to everyone who turned up today for London's first OpenCoffee Club - our friends at Starbucks were overwhelmed when more than 75 of you turned up. They told me they sold 6x more drinks this Thursday morning than usual, so we expect the red carpet treatment next week :)

If you missed it, no worries, its on at the same time and same place next week - 10-12 in Starbucks inside Esprit, which is at 178-182 Regent St - just sign up at Meetup or come along.

It was so cool to see such an diverse mix of entrepreneurs, developers, marketers, investors (VC and angel) and media all in the same informal space - not pitching, just sharing ideas.

There were some really promising entrepreneurs and businesses. Hopefully people made some good connections. I really hope that we can keep up the open atmosphere and help one another improve our businesses - feedback is so important, and in an informal setting can be even more powerful.

One of the coolest things for me was meeting Clementine and Rebecca, two 23 year-old entrepreneurs who had built their online business on less than a shoe-string and were just clearly really excited about what they were building.

There's some coverage of the event by Mike, Robin and the Guardian's Organgrinder.

Some of the comments from people who came along:
"it was an amazing crowd - entrepreneurs, VCs and journalists from London and surroundings. Result - awesome networking with very clued in people" (Hakon, entrepreneur)

"Excellent - v high signal/noise ratio, and everyone had a 'can-do' attitude which I love..." (Marc, entrepreneur and R&D supremo)

"Good chance too catch up with everyone and get acquainted with some new faces. I see a great future for these meetings, I mean where else do you get to demo your app to several great VCs over coffee. See you there next week!" (Damien, Ruby guru)

"There seems to be a real buzz around these type of events now. A lot of us now know each other and everyone's moving forward and getting real traction." (Peter, entrepreneur & developer)

"Great atmosphere and some great people. I got way more out of it than I thought I would - and that isn’t meant to sound like I went in with low expectations. I didn’t. I’m looking forward to the next one." (Nic, VC)
Mike and Michael also have some pictures.

I'm really interested to hear more feedback from people who came along and also how OpenCoffee went in Ireland today -- please let us know guys.

Looking forward to seeing folks next week - and seeing more OpenCoffee clubs popping up very soon.

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Advent invests $5m in Fizzback Series A

Both Robin and Fred have covered Frederic Court at Advent's recent investment in Fizzback, a company which offers instant-feedback to businesses direct from customers.

At a time when customers are one click away from a competitor, understanding what your customers think and giving them an easy and transparent way to communicate with your business in more important than ever.

There has been a lot of sound and fury over the years about CRM and it amazes me that for all the investments companies have made, very few have materially changed or improved how they serve their customers.

Fizzback does something very smart: they use a device which increasingly everyone has (mobile) to give consumers the ability to give instant feedback on real-world, offline customer experiences. They've quietly been building a great business with some serious national brands in UK, giving managers both a quantitative and qualitative real-time view on customers' feelings.

As Fred points out, the end-game here is likely to be a combination of online and real-world intelligence. There are a number of players online who are active in this customer opinion space - including Reevoo in the UK and Bazaarvoice in the US.

One thing is for sure, the web and mobile gives brands more opportunities than ever to listen to and engage in conversations their customers -- through forums, blogs, wiki and even digg-style opinion forums.

Mining your own customer-media as well as the blogosphere and web for consumer insight is part of the future of customer service, our community guru Jaanus Kase really worked hard at this at Skype and I think there is no doubt that many smart brands will be the early adopters of these services and win loyal customers as a result.

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