Friday, April 20, 2007

Can Moo become Hallmark 2.0?

There is no doubt that the greetings cards business is an enormous one. Hallmark has dominated it for years with their top-down approach to creating content for every occasion you might want to express love, congratulations, good wishes and everything in between. In 2006, they did over $4bn in revenue.

It's a pretty good business to be in - there are greeting cards on sale all over the world, all at a pretty high price point. Enter Moo.

Having redefined the humdrum business card with their super-cool MiniCards, which has drawn a fanatical following on the web finding cool use for MiniCards like magnets and keyrings, as well as accessories.

Now Moo is redefining the way we can send greetings to people with the launch of NoteCards.

NoteCards let you upload your Flickr photos or any design onto a uniquely shaped greetings card. They come beautifully delivered with envelopes so you can start bringing a personal touch into your personal greetings.

Give it a try, I promise you'll love it and start dreaming of ways to bring Hallmark's one-size fits all model of greetings to their knees.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

South Africa 5 years on

Given where it was coming from - years of apartheid - I always felt that you needed to cut South Africa some slack in terms of its development goals. Now, having just been there again it's really struck me how much has developed in even the last 5 years since I wrote this post.

Traffic used to be a word you barely ever heard in South Africa - such great roads and so few people who could afford cars but now Johannesburg is packed with cars. Buildings are going up everywhere, smart office buildings and business parks stretch from Sandton through Four Ways and up to Mid Rand - the economy and the stock markets are booming.

South Africa has always had extremely strong mining companies and in recent years SAB has become a global force in brewing. But there are several really strong businesses being grown from Joburg now, including two of Africa's largest cell phone operators - Vodacom and MTN - and several very strong banks including ABSA (recently acquired by Barclays for £3bn) and Standard Bank. Investec has been a phenomenal success story in the last 5 years as well.

There are great retail businesses like Truworths, Pick'n'Pay and Nandos has taken its brand of fast-casual food global. In technology great businesses have been built like Dimension Data, Thawte (bought by Verisign) and now Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu are making major waves in the open source community.

There has been a lot of talent which has left South Africa and been instrumental in building some great businesses Web businesses like Elon Musk (PayPal) and Roelof Botha (PayPal, YouTube). Douglas at Extate has started his business in the UK but has produced a South African version as well. Many have stayed (or left roots behind) and are building important projects and some great businesses. There is a thriving Internet scene in South Africa - in fact today marks Cape Town's first OpenCoffee Club meeting.

One of South Africa's hidden jewels is also Naspers. This is probably one of the most interesting media companies on the planet right now, not just because of how much they are dominating their home markets but mainly because of their strategy which drives a super imaginative and shrewd approach to investing in the Internet. This company most people have never heard of are quietly building a portfolio of some of the most incredible Internet assets in emerging markets including 36% of Tencent (QQ is a phenomenon) and a recent acquisition of 30% of

China and Russia - as well as Africa - are markets experiencing hypergrowth. For all our railing on Africa, there are a million new cellphone customer signing up a week. Europe is often a strange, strange land to US companies and investing outside the mainstream in emerging markets is even scarier but going to places, off the beaten track, but where there is high growth is great strategy.

South Africa is hosting the World Cup in 2010 - not 5 years this time to wait, but its going to fascinating to see the growth between now and then and also perhaps the realization in the rest of the world that Africa, and South Africa, is more than just rugby, cricket, amazing nature and wildlife, but is starting to produce some economic world champions as well.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Google pays $3.1bn for some key relationships

In buying Doubleclick, Google has not just taken the plunge and going very hard after the display advertising space but bought in some of the web's longest standing advertiser and publishers relationships not to say an enormous amount of critical data.

Google's move is very aggressive and expensive, but also very smart. Doubleclick may have had less compelling technology than many others, including Atlas but its relationships are second to none.

Although there is so much change and innovation going on in the advertising space right now between services like Spotrunner, Feedburner, Tacoda, Videoegg and Quigo - relationships still count for more than anything in themarketing services world.

There's been lots of coverage and conjecture in the blogosphere about the motivations (see Om, Mike, John Battelle and Steve Rubel) and Google has covered the deal extensively on their blogs.

This is going to be very interesting as online advertising continues to eat share of the overall marketing budget, Microsoft, Yahoo, News Corp (MySpace), Time Warner (AOL) and any other media owner who depends on advertising revenue will need to think twice as hard now about how to effectively compete with Google's advertising machine.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

OpenCoffee keeps rolling - now in 23 locations, 6 new this week

We had another great OpenCoffee Club in London today with well over 50 people coming over the 2 hours. Its nice to see many regulars from both the investing (Mattias at Atomico), developer (Damien at New Bamboo) and entrepreunerial (Paul at Cominded) community starting to connect on a regular basis and in such an informal and constrcutive way.

There are some really interesting young entrepreneurs in London at the moment and they were some great new apps being demoed including Joel Selvadurai who was showing folks his cool people directory for finding bloggers who Skype.

Sumon Sadhu (happy birthday) and Peter Nixey were also around -- they both have some interesting new ideas up their sleeves as well for us to look out for.

The group on London OpenCoffee group on the very excellent Meetup has reached over 300 members and the Ning social network is becoming quite active as well, pulling together the now 23 OpenCoffee locations around the world.

New locations this week include:
Patrick is also going to be hosting the first International OpenCoffee Club after the NextWeb Conference on June 2nd in Amsterdam.

There are also plans afoot this week to take OpenCoffee to Houston and even Second Life.

The collective energy around OpenCoffee has been amazing, it's really encouraging to see people involved in the startup scene responding so positively to the notion of informal get togethers.

At the moment, we've seen it work best with a no pressure environment and the right combination of developers, investors and entrepreneurs - keep pushing for the right mix in your local market and if the VCs don't come, let them know what they're missing :)

Labels: , , , ,

Extate continues to think different

True to form, the team at Extate continues to think different.

Some of their novelties include video listings, mortgage and square-foot calculations and recently a service for the South African market.

Now, they have done a very cool implementation of property maps which addresses many of the issues typically associated with the traditional property site meets Google Maps mash up.

While they have not blown away the field in terms of Alexa rankings, I'm continually impressed by the team's smarts and desire to create new and compelling user experiences.

Thankfully they have done at least one thing conventional -- they now have a blog :)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stardoll makes it to E! News

Stardoll has become a worldwide phenomenon.

It's an online celebrity dress up and community site for everyone who likes fashion and celebrities. There are now nearly 6.5m members, mostly girls between the ages of 7 and 17.

Check out what E! News has to say about it...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Index leads $18m round in

Russia is one of the fastest growing online markets and Ozon is the "Amazon of Russia" and one of its largest Internet companies.

As part of a broader approach to investing in Eastern Europe, Index has led a round of $18m, alongside Cisco and Holtzbrinck, to help Ozon drive growth. Giuseppe Zocco will be leading for Index.

There's great coverage of the deal and the market at eConsultancy and also alarm:clock.

Labels: , , ,

Three New OpenCoffee Clubs and more planned

OpenCoffee Club keep spreading and this week there are three new and really exciting locations opening up.

Nicholas Butterworth, the man behind Sonicnet and the first incarnation of MTVi is going to be hosting New York's OpenCoffee Club - it should draw a great crowd together and hopefully will turn into a superb hub.

Jason Mendelson and Brad Feld from Mobius are opening up Boulder's OpenCoffee Club. These are the guys behind and are two of the most prolific and productive VC bloggers online - it should be a great event.

The very cool Lundkenner crew have kicked off OpenCoffee Club in Copenhagen with Mark Sonne Kharazmi taking the lead. Morton was an early influencer in Skype and these guys have a great attitude and a seriously creative spirit - so if you're ever in Copenhagen, don't miss out.

This week, I've also heard plans for OpenCoffee Clubs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pittsburgh, Sao Paolo and Sydney.

The community at is also growing fast - it's nearly at 200 now - so join in online or at one of the 20 or so cities hosting events weekly.

This Thursday I'm in France on a week's break so I'll be missing the London event, but if last week was anything to go by there'll be an excellent blend of entrepreneurs, investors and developers. See you next week in London.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 02, 2007

Irish Innovation

We know from OpenCoffee Club that Ireland is a hotbed of startups and entrepreneurship.

There are currently three active OCCs in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Plus Fergus Burns from Nooked has been a great cheerleader for the movement in Ireland.

David Lenehan has posted a great review of Irish startups at Read/WriteWeb.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Physical measurements of Web 2.0

There's a great piece on Moo from
"If you ever wondered, the physical measurements of Web 2.0 are 28 by 70 millimeters.

It happens that those are the measurements of Moo cards, a new take on the centuries-old business card that's becoming the "secret handshake" of the Web 2.0 set."
Moo has really started to motor with partnerships with some of the coolest barnds on the web like Flickr, Bebo, Second Life and Habbo - plus this week the web's photosharing leviathan, Fotolog has joined the ranks.

You can even now start uploading your own designs to put onto your MiniCards.

People are passionate about Moo and as it catches on among the digerati its fans are finding new ways to express themselves using the super cool cards.

Labels: , , , , ,