Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spotrunner talks to BoomTown

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Video starts to really mean business

Forget about LonelyGirl15, the emergence of Hulu and the Google/YouTube vs Viacom battle of the titans -- an emerging story for me is how video is really becoming a mainstream part of standard web business communications.

So, kudos to the OpenX team. Today they released 2.6, the latest and greatest version of their open source adserving software including an API and enhanced dashboard really integrating the community.

New CEO Tim Cadogan explains it all in this great video.

We've seen some really interesting new uses of video so far this year - from Loic Le Meur's video comments with Seesmic through to the great new video interviews that are starting to become a staple diet of mainstream blogs. Of course, you can't forget Moo's very memorable video promo for their minicards - now with nearly 3m views on YouTube.

f you haven't seen it, there's also some great video content from last year's Seedcamp. Looking forward to seeing what cool new uses people find for video communications next.

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Alexa loves Netlog, I Still Love Alexa

You can say what you like about Alexa, vs Compete, vs Google Trends, vs ComScore, vs Netratings.

I still love Alexa and I still love this chart :)

Netlog remains a European powerhouse with over 35m users across 19 languages and for all Bebo's lustre in mainstream media and the $850m price-tag which AOL put on it -- this is very very impressive performance by the Ghent's best kept secret. Keep up the great work guys.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

From First Timer to Funded -- Valuing Validation

Raising money if you're an entrepreneur is tough at the best of times, but if you're a first time entrepreneur its incredibly difficult because the reassurance investors look for more than anything else when they look to fund is validation.

There were lots of interesting conversational threads at dinner last night with Fred Wilson and 15 first-timers from the TAG and Seedcamp networks but this theme of building validation and how important it is for entrepreneurs really stuck with me.

Validation comes in many forms: previous successes, persuading a killer person to join your team or even be an advisor, signing a paying customer, acquiring lots of users, getting positive press or blog reviews. The list goes on. But without some form of validation, however good your idea might sound - if you have no track-record its just so hard to get off the ground.

First timers have no start-up track record - they have to build one.

So how do you do that and how do places like Seedcamp or YCombinator help?

Its hard to get to achieve most of the list above at the very early stages, so probably the biggest thing that Seedcamp and YCombinator do is that they force teams to ship - and ship quickly.

We both want teams that can code, not just think, and the added forcing function of limited time and limited capital makes getting something out the door imperative. There's nothing like a deadline to keep focus.

Its not important to have a finished product, even less a finished plan - what's important is to show that you can create a prototype that you can share with other people: a verbal and visual representation (to paraphrase Fred's great point) of what's going on inside the collective heads of your team.

To be both an accomplished hacker and a painter in just three months with virtually no money is an endurance test - you need to have great co-founders and you need to have great support. Paul Graham and his team have created an excellent model and its a model for our times.

There is nothing more validating at an early stage than a team that shows how they can bootstrap with limited resources to produce something which solves a real problem and that people want.

First timers who have come through YCombinator or Seedcamp have real validation. They have been filtered in the application process, they have had feedback from smart, experienced entrepreneurs and investors and they have plugged into the collective wisdom of their peers.

This is powerful stuff. So its not surprising that for many investors, teams who have been through these programs have a real mark of validation that makes it a lot easier to take an investment risk on a first timer.

In today's environment, if you are in your 20s and you put [society's] [your parent's] economic fears aside, there has never been a better time to be a first-timer.

Sttart-up costs are incredibly low (read Josh Kopelman's post on the "Price of Failure") and there is no technical excuse not to bootstrap.

Today's startup has access to:
  • incredibly mature open source technologies;
  • a globally networked talent-pool through services like LinkedIn and Xing;
  • incredible platforms for scaleable infrastructure and viral distribution that simply didn't exist - in most cases even 12 months ago.
We went round the table at dinner last night and 12 out of 15 companies were actively using AWS or trying out Google's new AppEngine. Everyone was using LAMP, Python; Django or Ruby. Everyone was using (or had a plan) for f8 and OpenSocial -- and of course with the new iPhone SDK people were salivating at the prospect of a mobile web that wasn't just a new channel but a new context for their applications.

There is no better or cheaper time to start a company in this space -- for little to no cost you can access on-demand infrastructure, social distribution and even monetization through AdWords or OpenX. In fact I'd argue with all the new platform innovation from Facebook, Apple and the cloud computing folks in the last year, now is even a better time than 2007.

So if you have a great idea and you've never started a business before go for it.

If you're a hacker, there's never been a better time and if you're a painter, find a hacker to work with and apply to Seedcamp (or YCombinator or Brad Feld and Dave Cohen's excellent TechStars -- they're all great and offer slightly different things).

At Seedcamp you know that if you apply and get through to the main week in London from Sept 15-19th just some of the folks you'll get to hang out with and get feedback from include:
  • the founders behind some of Europe's biggest recent exits like Niklas Zennstrom and Michael Birch plus the key folks behind MySQL, Lastminute,,, Plazes, Kelkoo and Zyb
  • the founders of some of Europe's most promising next generation businesses like Seatwave, WAYN, Moo, Spreadshirt, Lovefilm, Huddle and GlassesDirect
  • some of Europe and Israel's best seed and venture investors; including Atlas, Balderton, Amadeus, Index, Atomico, Northzone, Eden, DJF Esprit
  • experts in product, marketing and technology from Google, MySpace, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Sun and Oracle
  • folks from Techcrunch, LeWeb, FOWA, O'Reilly and the FT
  • plus we'll even throw in some specialists in startup legals and recruiting ;)
It's pretty intense - check out some of the content from last year. But its a lot of fun and pretty useful to the winners.

It's worth applying anyway though - lots of last year's teams who didn't make it told us how useful the application was in helping them to focus and articulate what they were trying to build.

So, if your a first-timer - especially those based in Europe, Middle East or Africa - what better way to get validated?

You have three weeks left to apply, yes apply -- we really look forward to seeing you and if not you than your friends, so spread the word.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great content from Seedcamp 07

Last September, Seedcamp brought together some of Europe's top founders, investors and advisors to bring perspective and encouragement to the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

Check out some of the great content from some of the advisors who were there last year - just some of the folks you can hear from below include Niklas Zennstrom (Skype, Joost), Marc Samwer (Jamba), Toby Rowland (uDate,, Nic Brisbourne (DJF Esprit investor in WAYN,, Martin Varsavky (FON), Mike Shaver (Mozilla) and Klaus Hommels (seed investor in Xing, Skype, Stardoll).

This year is going to be even better. So if you haven't applied or know someone who would benefit from hanging out in close proximity and getting advice from people like this point them to Seedcamp applications - they close August 10th.

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Dinner with Fred and company

Michael had a nice post on Seedcamp blog about really fun and interesting dinner last night with Fred Wilson and some great first-time Seedcamp and TAG entrepreneurs.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Moo launches business cards

Moo has launched their long awaited "regular" business cards.

I say regular because they are a shape that you would recognize but in true Moo fashion, they are anything but - in addition to their unique variable print technology which means you can have a different image on every card, the quality of the paper stock is super high and for the same price you can buy green fully recycled paper stock.

Congratulations to Richard and the team - another great product.

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