Yearly Archives: 2011

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Batch Is a Very Nice Photo Sharing App

Batch ScreenshotI’ve tried out just about every iPhone photo sharing app, and many of them are quite good. I’ve mostly been attached to Instagram due to the ease of use, design, and the biggest user base means I have more people to follow and to share photos with.

One of the biggest problems with photo sharing apps so far is that they all tend to only allow you to share one photo at a time. While this keeps the quality of photos shared high, it creates some problems.

It’s a painful process if you want to share multiple photos from an event, as part of a theme, or just to get photos off your phone and put them in a place they can be shared without the painful process of downloading them to a computer and then uploading them somewhere.

Tonight Mike Arrington broke the news that the team at self-photo taking startup DailyBooth recently launched a photo sharing app called Batch for the iPhone.

I downloaded Batch and immediately loved it for the following reasons:

  • The design is beautiful. I love the handwritten instructions that overlay the screen in certain areas, and it walks you through how to use the application really well.
  • Uploading photos in a batch is great. The first time I got to touch multiple photos and have them uploaded at once I saw the value in the speed and simplicity of sharing the photos in a batch.
  • Automatic friend connection via Facebook makes it nice to not have to worry about building up my social graph. As friends join Batch, we’ll just get connected. Simple. This has some downsides in that you can’t customize who you follow or don’t follow yet, but I prefer it over having to start from scratch and manually choose everything and hope my friends find me.
  • You can see the future potential if batches from one event or location are grouped automatically and viewable together. It could nicely fulfill the promise of Color that never came to be.

If you have an iPhone and share photos, give Batch a try in the app store.

Best Startup PostMortem Yet – GameLayers

GameLayers Spending

Every entrepreneur and investor takes something different away from shutting down a company. I’m glad to see more people are choosing transparency and dialoge to share unfiltered experiences and extract lessons to be learned. The startup ecosystem is better off as a result. – Bryce Roberts

I posted recently about how much there is to be learned from the stories of startups failing. As investor Bryce Roberts from OATV points out, this postmortem from former OATV investment GameLayers is very detailed with a wealth of knowledge.

There’s personal stories, videos, pitch decks, charts, and pictures that really take you through the ups and downs of the GameLayers startup experience. It’s definitely a worthwhile read.

Why Is Google Even Involved In The Yahoo! Acquisition Talks?

'YAHOO in 2001.' photo (c) 2007, gaku. - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There’s been numerous news reports about Google considering “buying” Yahoo!, or at least teaming up with private equity companies to do so.

While most of the articles at least mention in passing that it’d be unlikely for this to pass government review, I haven’t seen many people actually discuss why Google is involved.

Why wouldn’t a Google acquisition of Yahoo! pass government review? Well, if the Department of Justice wouldn’t pass the search deal that Google and Yahoo! worked up in 2008 where SOME of Yahoo!’s search results were powered by Google, then why would they actually let Google take part in buying all of Yahoo!?

In fact, many thought that Google knew in 2008 it wouldn’t pass government review, but tried to do the deal just so Yahoo! would turn down Microsoft and waste a lot of Yahoo!’s internal time (and it worked). I sat in many meetings at Yahoo! that were spent talking about the tests we were running with Google and how we were going to implement the deal.

There hasn’t been enough change in search market share for anyone to seriously even think it could pass. I’m not entirely sure if Google being only part of an ownership group with private equity firms would change the government’s view, but I doubt it.

Which leaves us asking, why is anyone even taking Google’s interest seriously?

I can’t answer why anyone is taking Google seriously, besides the fact that they are one of the only players who actually have the cash to do something around Yahoo!.

'Red flags' photo (c) 2004, Rutger van Waveren - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/It just seems like any major involvement on there part is going to just raise big red flags with the governments of the world and will never pass “go”.

Why would Google get involved then?

I feel like there are two obvious answers to this one.

  1. Google can pretend to at least have interest in Yahoo! to draw out how quickly something happens here. The more time Yahoo! is in limbo, and the more time Microsoft spends figuring out what to do about it, the better that is for Google to continue to separate itself from them.
  2. Google can go as far as even floating prices out there to try and get others (Microsoft) to feel like they have to pay more in order to get Yahoo!. The more money someone spends on Yahoo!, the better that is for Google.

I suppose it is possible that Google really does want to keep Yahoo! out of Microsoft’s hands, but it seems like Microsoft having to acquire and digest Yahoo! would just allow Google to accelerate ahead even further ahead. It’s all just a ruse to waste time by complicating matters and drive up the price. Well played Google.

Great Funding Details Post From DuckDuckGo

While it’s not a startup failure post, I found this detailed post from Gabriel Weinberg of DuckDuckGo to be much more interesting and helpful than reading a generic blog post about their funding news on all the tech blogs.

Kudos to Gabriel for being open and sharing his fundraising experience.

Someone Create A Startup Failure Blog Please…

At the recent TechStars Demo Day, Gary Vaynerchuk spoke about his concern with the current trend of celebrating the startups who raise money.

It’s easy to understand why the media, investors, and us all as individuals in the startup/tech world tend to focus on the stories of fundraising and hot startups. It’s positive, exciting, and it fuels the dreams of so many involved.

Gary’s point seems to be that we should celebrate the startup that knows how to make money instead of raise money. It’s a good point, but I think when startups make money at scale that’s celebrated quite a bit by everyone.

The problem I see is that these stories paint a picture that everything is great out there in startup-land, it’s easy to raise money, and that if you follow some simple steps you can also raise money and get on Techcrunch.

Besides the inaccurate picture that’s painted, there’s frankly not much to be learned from hearing about a hot startup with a strong team, that’s executed their product well, and raised money from A+ investors. While it’s a feel good story, there’s not much in that story that’s easy to learn from or duplicate.

Where there is something to be learned is from the startups that aren’t making it. The startups who are not finding product/market fit, the ones who can’t raise money, who are having team problems, or are failing for some other reason.

I’ve learned far more from the few startup postmortems that founders have posted than I’ve learned from the thousands of “Startup X raises investment” stories that have been published this year.

These stories are somewhat hard to find, as founders are often less excited to publicly talk about their failures. However, it’s also because there is no publication that’s really giving these companies and founders a voice.

The solution is a blog that specifically covers startups that have failed, are currently struggling, or that were on their way down before pivoting to find success. This isn’t meant to be a site that gossips or mocks these startups like F—edcompany.com did back in 2000, but one that seeks to pull out the lessons to be learned and positive experiences that can be drawn from them.

I’m tempted to start such a blog, but I’m busy working on my own company and don’t need the additional distraction. Who’s up for building a publication that could be very valuable for the good of the tech world?

Thoughts on Steve Jobs: I Feel Sorry For My Kids


I never met Steve Jobs. I don’t have any neat stories to tell about him. However, similar to everyone else, I feel like there’s a little less magic and mystery in the world now with his passing.

Jobs’ creations at Apple held an important role in my path. My first personal computer was one of the first PowerMacs where I did my first HTML programming. Shortly thereafter, my first “real” business adventure was buying thousands of dollars worth of broken Apple IIe computers from our school district with friends, fixing them up in a garage, and then reselling them for profit.

I reflected today on my own experience with Apple products along with Jobs as a visionary, entrepreneur, leader, marketer, salesman, and more. While doing this, I began to think about my nine, seven, and three year old kids, and I actually felt sorry for them in a weird way.

These kids never lived without the magical touch computing of iPods, iPhones, and iPads. They instantly accepted and became familiar with these products before ever getting a chance to know what it was like before they existed.

They didn’t get to realize how crazy it is that my parents record collection multiplied by 100 could be stored on a tiny and easy to use device.

They didn’t get to try an iPhone for the first time like I did and mentally compare it to a rotary dial phone, and then think to themselves “Wow, I’m living in the future!”.

They didn’t get to figure out that at one point it took tons of hardware devices to accomplish what they do when they instantly play games, surf the web, take pictures, shoot video, watch movies, listen to music, talk on Facetime, and more all on a sleek tablet.

Lastly, I fear that my kids generation may not be as curious and as driven as Steve Jobs and his brethren were on revolutionizing technology. If everything just works so well and and is so easy, will they challenge the status quo to create their version of what the future looks like?

While there will never be another Steve Jobs, the optimist in me believes that he already is inspiring the current generation of entrepreneurs, and that his legacy and products will continue to inspire future generations to come. Thanks Steve.

Where Yahoo’s Properties Stack Up

'Steve Ballmer signs the Microsoft-Yahoo! agreement' photo (c) 2009, Yahoo! Blog - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/It was a big day at Yahoo! yesterday, with Kara Swisher breaking the news that Carol Bartz was fired as CEO (over the phone no less).

I found the firing over the phone ironic. When I was vice president at Yahoo! during the layoffs in 2009, I was requested to lay off 6 members of my team in person on the same day across three offices intwo different states. Naturally, I did as asked despite the impossible travel day it created, as I believed it was the right thing to do to have in-person conversations with people in those tough moments. Apparently Carol wasn’t given the same courtesy.

As news broke about Bartz’s ouster, the consistent chorus of people calling Yahoo! doomed or irrelevant began to ring out. Yahoo! has indeed been troubled, but I believe it can and should be saved.

Yahoo! wants to be the “premiere digital media company”, which is the right goal based on their strengths, where the world is headed, and what their competitors are likely to focus on. Let’s take a look at those strengths.

Yahoo!’s Strengths

Let’s take a look at where their top US properties stand with competitors using data from Compete.com. Yes, I know Compete.com is far from perfect with it’s numbers and even trends, but there are few choices for public data analysis and the ranking should be correct.

Portal-Style Front Page
If we just compare against similar “portal” type front pages, Yahoo!’s front page is #1.
1. Yahoo! Front Page
2. MSN.com
3. AOL.com

Personalized Front Page
There aren’t many personalized portals like My Yahoo! left, but Facebook and Twitter seem like the new generation of this to compare against My Yahoo!, which still has a tremendous amount of traffic.
1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. My Yahoo!

News
This is a gigantic category where Yahoo! crushes the competition.
1. Yahoo! News
2. MSNBC
3. CNN
4. NYTimes
5. Google News

Mail
Yahoo! Mail has been the leader in email for a quite some time. If anything there is a larger threat from Facebook messages, mobile texts, and other forms of communication than from direct competitors.
1. Yahoo! Mail
2. Live/Hotmail
3. Gmail

Search
The big daddy of properties, Search is a primary revenue driver. While the Comscore data has Yahoo! and Bing being close and flip-flopping, Compete does have Yahoo! Search at #3.
1. Google
2. Bing
3. Yahoo! Search

Finance
One of Yahoo!’s anchor properties, Yahoo! Finance is a traffic powerhouse. Google Finance traffic data can’t be pulled out, but it’s definitely not close to Yahoo!.
1. Yahoo! Finance
2. money.cnn.com
3. money.cnbc.com
4. Marketwatch.com
5. TheStreet.com

Photos
This one is tough to measure now, as Facebook’s photo data is not broken out, and mobile startup Instagram is quickly becoming a player. Twitter is also making more of a move here recently. Since it’s clear Facebook is now #1 even without the data broken out, it shakes out like this:
1. Facebook
2. Flickr by Yahoo!
3. Photobucket
4. Instagram

Instant Messenger
Tough to measure how Facebook and Gmail chat compare here since neither one is broken out in the Compete data. If I had to guess, I’d say Yahoo! is ahead of Gmail chat but I’m not sure what Facebook’s usage looks like.
1. Skype
2. Yahoo! Messenger
3. AOL Instant Messenger

Sports
Another one of Yahoo!’s outstanding gigantic properties, Yahoo! Sports is the leader in game even though ESPN calls itself “The Leader”.
1. Yahoo! Sports
2. ESPN
3. Fox Sports

Entertainment
OMG is a great example of what Yahoo! can do, as OMG launched later then competitors and is now dominating them.
1. OMG.yahoo.com
2. TMZ.com
3. People.com

Women
Like OMG, this is another newer Yahoo! property that started much later in the game but is now crushing the competition.
1. Shine by Yahoo!
2. iVillage
3. Cosmopolitan

Local
The competition is really close here on the Compete data so this order could end up being wrong.
1. Google Local
2. Yahoo! Local
3. Local.com
4. Yelp

Maps
The Compete data has Mapquest being ahead of Google in web visitors, but with mobile factored in Google is the clear leader.
1. Google Maps
2. Mapquest
3. Yahoo! Maps

Travel
It’s a very competitive space, but Yahoo! still puts up a good fight against some heavyweights.
1. Expedia
2. TripAdvisor
3. Priceline
4. Yahoo! Travel

Real Estate
Quick, who’s the biggest real estate site? Answer: Yahoo!.
1. Yahoo! Real Estate
2. Realtor.com
3. Zillow
4. Trulia

Games (Web-based)
Gaming is now getting fragmented with web-based games, games on Facebook, and games on mobile. If we look at just web-based games including Zynga on Facebook, Yahoo! comes in at #3.
1. Zynga/Facebook
2. Pogo.com
3. Yahoo! Games

Movies
This is one of those “kind of silent but really powerful” Yahoo! properties. How many startups would kill to have 20M users like Yahoo! Movies does?
1. IMDB.com
2. Yahoo! Movies
3. Fandango

Music
Would you have guessed Yahoo! Music was #1 in music properties with over 18M estimated users? Me either. This is a dangerous one though as music consumption changes to become more mobile and application-based.
1. Yahoo! Music
2. Pandora
3. Last.fm
4. AOL Music
5. Rhapsody

TV
Once again, the quiet winner you probably wouldn’t have guessed is Yahoo!.
1. Yahoo! TV
2. Hulu
3. TV Guide

Shopping
When it comes to comparison shopping engines/portals, Yahoo! comes out on top again. To be fair though, Google’s “shopping” section can’t be pulled out in Compete data, but it’s not really the same type of shopping portal. Amazon.com and eBay are also larger, but are different types of sites.
1. Yahoo! Shopping
2. Bizrate
3. Shopping.com

Dating
Yahoo! outsourced Yahoo! Personals to Match.com in a move by Bartz. However, Yahoo’s Match.com subdomain is still #2 in the market:
1. Match.com
2. Yahoo.match.com
3. PlentyofFish
4. eHarmony

Fantasy Sports
This is harder to tell traffic on with Compete as Yahoo! has a subdomain for it but redirects it to sports.yahoo.com. Despite that, while working at Yahoo! in 2010 I know that Yahoo!’s Fantasy Football was #1 in the market, so I’ll hazard a guess that it’s it’s in the top 2 in this lucrative market.

Q&A
While Quora gets all the tech industry buzz these days, it’s still tiny compared to Yahoo! Answers.
1. Yahoo! Answers
2. Answers.com
3. Askville by Amazon

Video
It’s a long way off in traffic from YouTube, a long way….but Yahoo! comes it an #5.
1. YouTube
2. Facebook
3. Hulu
4. Metacafe
5. Yahoo! Video

Weather
Yahoo! is quite a bit behind market leader Weather.com, but #2 isn’t bad.
1. Weather.com
2. Yahoo! Weather
3. Accuweather

Groups
The data isn’t broken out, but we’ll assume Facebook Groups are now getting more traffic than Yahoo! Groups.
1. Facebook Groups
2. Yahoo! Groups
3. Google Groups

Health
Yahoo! Health has a strong showing in another very lucrative advertising category that also generates high traffic.
1. WebMD
2. Yahoo! Health
3. MedicineNet

Autos
Despite entries from all the portal companies as well as industry powerhouses like Autotrader, Edmunds, and Cars.com, Yahoo! Autos comes out on top.
1. Yahoo! Autos
2. Autotrader.com
3. Edmunds

Downloads
While not the sexiest category these days, it still drives millions of users. Yahoo! is #2 in downloads and is very close in traffic to #1.
1. Download.com
2. Yahoo! Downloads
3. Softpedia

Greetings
Yahoo! outsourced their Greetings to AmericanGreetings.com, but their subdomain still comes out to #4.
1. AmericanGreetings.com
2. 123Greetings.com
3. BlueMountain
4. Yahoo! Greetings

Calendar
Comparable data is not in Compete, but Yahoo! Calendar is either #1 or only surpassed by Google Calendar for web-based calendars.

Address Book
Comparable data is not in Compete, but Yahoo! is in the top 3 for web-based address book with Facebook and Google. Apple is obviously a huge player with this phone-based address book now.

Data Summary
It’s actually quite shocking to run through so many important categories and see that Yahoo! is a leader or one of the top companies in that space. Any of their positions alone would be an amazing startup or growing company, but doing it across so many categories is really impressive. It may not be flashy, but Yahoo! is getting the job done in a bunch of those spaces.

Additionally you can bring in other businesses here that aren’t really “consumer” facing like Yahoo! Small Business, Web Hosting, Domain Registration, Yahoo! Ad Network, Right Media Exchange, and others.

Also not covered above is how Yahoo! fares internationally in many of those properties in other countries. It’s all over the map (literally), but some of the international regions are stronger than the USA in overall dominance. Not to mention the ownership value of various Asian assets.

Yahoo!’s Weaknesses

What makes Yahoo! vulnerable is that they are doing well in all those categories above, but primarily just from a desktop computer experience.

The Facebook Effect
Facebook has already been stealing Yahoo!’s thunder in various categories for a while now, but it remains a huge threat. Facebook doesn’t compete with Yahoo! on identical products, but does things like make a traditional front page unnecessary, or replacing email with Facebook messages and instant chats.

If or when Facebook starts making moves into running their own socially-enabled properties like “Facebook News” or “Facebook Sports”, Yahoo! may have even more trouble ahead.

Social in General
Handled above by the Facebook effect, but Yahoo! will continue to lose out to Facebook and other social applications if it doesn’t improve rapidly in this area. It’s not for a lack of trying, but Yahoo! has now essentially outsourced a lot of their social stuff to enabling Facebook and Twitter on their properties.
'knock-off iPhone 4' photo (c) 2010, Blake Patterson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Mobile and Tablets
Compared to Google, Facebook, and Apple, Yahoo! is very far behind in the mobile world. It’s clear they’ve already lost as far as “utility applications” are concerned on mobile devices.

The question they need to ask is how they make Yahoo! News the default mobile news application across all mobile devices? How do they make Yahoo! Finance the default financial application? They don’t seem to be moving aggressively enough in their leading categories to become the “premiere digital media company” on mobile devices.

It’ll be interesting to see where Yahoo! goes next with their leadership and strategy. They have a lot to work with as you can see from above, and I know a lot of talented people are still there looking to make it happen.

Beware Of Fake Twitter Phishing Email

Fake Twitter Email ScreenshotNormally I wouldn’t make a blog post about a phishing email, but tonight I received one that didn’t get caught by Gmail’s spam filter. It had me believing it was real since I hadn’t seen phishing email pretending to be Twitter before.

The email was supposedly from the address “support@twitter.com” telling me my account was suspended for excessive following. You can see a screenshot the email to the right.

While I knew I hadn’t recently followed a bunch of people, I thought maybe someone had hacked my account and followed people and that the email might be legit, until I read that I needed to click a link to “complete some offers” for to avoid account suspension.

Further examination revealed the link to be “http://mexico.cnn.com/redirectComplete.php?url=//bit%2Ely/ouvgwt” which redirects to “http://emailus.it.tc/” where you can see offers to complete.

Obviously, not from Twitter. Beware.

Google Plus Rapid Growth: Will It Last?

Google Plus growth screenshotThe above graph was created by Leon Haland and featured on Techcrunch Europe.

The tech media has been all over the rapid growth of Google’s social network Google Plus. Many have assumed that this rapid rise means that Google Plus is on it’s way to be a serious competitor Facebook and Twitter.

After my usage of Google Plus so far both sharing and reading, it’s definitely a solid product that does some things better and some things worse than other social tools.

However, I’ve yet to feel like it’s on it’s way to truly competing with Facebook or Twitter.

I think the graph above has been caused by the following:

  • Familiarity with Social Networking - A larger number of people are now familiar with social networking than when Facebook and Twitter launched. They also have more friends and are more connected making it easier to hear about a new social network and decide to go try it out.
  • A Desire For An Alternative - While Facebook and Twitter are massively used, there are a large number of users who don’t love them as products themselves and have the desire for an alternative. Google Plus is really the first serious alternative to launch.
  • Google “Install” Base - So many people already have Google accounts and use Gmail, that it made it super easy to explose Google Plus to users as well as make it easy to intelligently recommend Gmail contacts to invite.

Will Google Plus Keep Growing?

Google Plus was reviewed well by the tech media, and it feels pretty good as a product. However, after a few weeks now I’ve got over a 100 people in my “circles” but the only activity I’m seeing is from about 5-10 people who all have jobs as part of the tech media.

There is literally NO activity from most of my normal friends, many of whom are on the cutting edge of technology and are heavy social network users.

Why is this? I’ve asked a few of them, and the answers tend to be that they don’t know why they should use Google Plus instead of Facebook or Twitter. Their friends aren’t fully there yet, they don’t really feel the need to organize them into circles, and Facebook and Twitter just do a good enough job.

Google’s going to need to do something to differentiate Google Plus even more from those competitors and do something SIGNIFICANTLY better than the competition in order to get people to spend more time there.

It’s definitely possible, but it’s a tough task that won’t be as easy as the initial spike of growth in the graph above.

Great Startup Postmortem: MyFavorites

MyFavorites LogoThe tech media is filled with articles gushing over startups that have attracted millions of users, raised millions of dollars, been acquired, or are on their way to surefire success.

However, the reality is still that the majority of startups fail. These failures are usually not written about unless it’s a high profile flameout from a company that was well known. It’s too bad, because it seems like there’s a lot more to learn from why a startup failed than just hearing about the latest success story.

It’s also not that common for the founders of failed startups to be public and forthcoming about what went wrong.

The latest postmortem of a failed startup comes from Steve Poland and his startup MyFavorites.

Steve goes over the big vision for MyFavorites while also being very forthcoming by sharing spreadsheets, mockups, and other artifacts from his startup journey.

As an entrepreneur, it’s the kind of blog post you never want to write, but I’d like to thank Steve for sharing it with the world.