Category Archives: Technology

An Ad Tech Roll Up

I’ve been noodling the opportunity around an ad tech dream I had.  Yes, I really do dream about these things.

We all know the positions that Yahoo! and AOL are in.  I won’t go into that here, other than they will need to make some short term decisions rather quickly.

As a proactive entrepreneur, what if you could acquire the assets of Right Media (including client contracts) from Yahoo! and Platform-A (whatever is left of it) from AOL, roll them up, put on top of a 2.0 infrastructure such as AppNexus and scale the business?

Pros:

  • Client contracts lead to instant revenue
  • RMX has a name for itself in the industry
  • Could probably get it for fire-sale pricing

Cons:

  • Contacts/clients might not transfer
  • Yahoo! inventory is not guaranteed if moved away from Yahoo!, so that would need to be written into the agreements
  • Implementation of both platforms might be more hassle then they are worth
  • Much of Yahoo! RMX talent has already left, but not all

There is an opportunity here, at least at first glance.  It’s less about the technology and more about the contracts to advertisers.  The hypothesis that the acquisition of these both would lead to a faster time to market and revenue out of the gate.  There are probably quite a few other ad tech companies that you could bundle in here at the same time.  Might be worth investigating?  I’m sure a few people probably are…

The Big Switch: Apple to Android

Yesterday was a big day for me.  I’ve been a loyal iPhone/AT&T user since 2007 but it was time to change.  I didn’t change because the iPhone was bad or I didn’t enjoy it, but I switched to Android/Verizon because I was naturally curious about the entire Android ecosystem and Verizon’s network and my contract with AT&T was up.  I very much enjoyed my iPhone and invested heavily in the surrounding app ecosystem (tons of apps for my kids on it).

Back in December 2010, I wrote a post about wanting to experiment with different Operating Systems.  It took me about 7 months to convince myself, but I finally did it.  I’ve been told by friends that they think I’ll probably go back to the iOS, but I am looking forward to this experiment.  My entire computer infrastructure in my home is Apple-OS, so this will be the first non-native OS in my home.

I ended up getting the Samsung Charge, because I was growing impatient not knowing when the Galaxy S2 would come out; should the Galaxy SII perform better, I can always switch.

The first 18 hours with the phone have been great. It’s actually been a lot easier to setup than I thought it would be and Android is very much intuitive.  I’d say that the Android system allows the user to have a lot more control.  A good parallel here is manual vs. automatic cars.  The Apple iOS is very much an automatic transmission, it (just) works. The Android OS is a manual (stick) transmission that isn’t necessary, but allows for much more tweaking.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Android Marketplace.  There hasn’t been an app yet that I cannot find and love how Android allows for multiple apps to be open at the same time (which I suppose is coming in iOS 5).

The phone also has 4G, which is much, much faster than my 3G.

So far, so good.  Looking forward to exploring.

Big Tech vs. Big Advertising – When the Worlds Collide

While much of our days are battling agency against agency for our next client relationship that brings revenue growth, whom we’ve been competing with over the decades is changing.  When David Ogilvy wrote his famous book, I bet he wasn’t envisioning who was going to be his next competitor.  It’s no longer just JWT vs. Ogilvy or kbs+p vs. Arnold.   It’s also Madison Avenue (encompassing many of our agencies) vs. IBM vs. Adobe vs. EMC vs. etc.  You get the idea.

Today’s announcement with Adobe is powerful and did not come out of left field.  Back in March, I blogged about why I’m long on ADBE.

IBM + Adobe + EMC combined have a $266 billion combined market cap.
MDC + Publicis + IPG + WPP + Omnicom have a combined $44.1 billion market cap.

One could certainly argue about multiples and valuation of stocks (tech vs. services) but you get the idea – there is material market cap differentials between the two cohorts.

Over the next decade, as Madison Avenue grows a digital backbone and big tech expands it’s marketing services, our world is going to collide.  I’ve seen both sides in their current form today and there are pockets of brilliance but there is a really long way to go.  I have to assume that the M&A landscape on both sides of the table here are going to be fascinating and corporate development folks are going to be busy.

Note:  It’s not a winner take all game here.  Many partnerships are going to be found between these businesses, however, at what point does cooperation turn into competition?  (I like competition)

Areas of Interest from kbs+p Ventures Summit

We launched kbs+p Ventures about 6 months ago as an early stage investment arm of our agency, kbs+p.  Last Friday, we hosted a summit where we brought a small group of people with both visionary and tactical backgrounds to help us filter the areas that are of potential investment focus.  While most firms keep this confidential, following Fred’s recent post over at AVC, I’ll open these thoughts up as well.

Why?  I hope that any of you reading this blog might help point me/us in the right direction of entrepreneurs who are innovating in any one of these spaces.  You can easily get in touch with me here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.

In no particular order:

1.  Virtual Currency – what will the impact be of Facebook Credits?

2.  Measurement – how do you measure engagement?  How do you value “social”?

3.  Fan Acquisition – what are the best ways to acquire “fans” and “followers”?

4.  In-Stream – should brands participate in the stream of conversation and if they do, what are the rules to play by?  A company who is participating here is 140Proof

5.  Influence – how do you buy influence?

6.  No two networks or channels are used the same way.  I.e. While Facebook is a social channel, so is Linked In.  Think about the differences in your usage.  Compare this to 20 years ago when ABC and NBC, both television stations, were used similarly.

7.  With millions of web publishers, how do you match creative to each individual publisher?  It’s tough.

8.  We spend a lot of time targeting specific audiences, but an additional filter to overlay is “mindset.”  Are they currently in the “mode” to purchase? How do we differentiate messaging based upon where audiences are in the funnel?

9.  How do we combine SEM + social media monitoring.  If a topic is trending, how do we buy SEM against it?

10.  Predictive Trending – how do we predict what might trend and then purchase advertising around it.  (current company doing this is buzzfeed)

11.  How do we create video at low-cost, and then scale the distribution

12.  There currently isn’t one cohesive “stream” of me.  How can we harness the entire stream?  Where will the meta-stream live?

Leave comments and/or questions.  Would love to elaborate on any or all of these.

Of Acceleration, Inspiration Spaces, and Funds: 2011 TMK Digital Media VC Conference

One of the areas that I focus on is bridging Madison Avenue with Silicon Alley/Valley.  I think it’s unbelievably important for the future growth of both ecosystems.

At The Media Kitchen, in 2008, we launched our first Digital Media Venture Capital Conference.  We haven’t looked back since and we’re going on our 4th year of doing this.  We’ve had venture firms such as Union Square Ventures, First Round Capital, DFJ Gotham, Spark Capital, Betaworks (not a full VC firm), and IA Ventures present in the past with a wealth of CEOs and founders from amazing startups including but not limited to Meetup, 33 Across, AppNexus, Pinch Media, Izea, ContextWeb, DoubleVerify, Boxee, 5Min, TargetSpot, ChartBeat, Bit.ly, Zenetics, Metamarkets, FourSquare, GetGlue, Tumblr, and Twitter.  Here’s a link to my post from our 2008 conference.

This year, we’re changing it up a bit and not focusing 100% on Venture Capital funds, but around the ecosystem that surrounds entrepreneurship.  I think this is very important to present because the more people that we inspire about the surrounding ecosystem of entrepreneurship, the more people will feel comfortable with the possibilities of innovation.

We’re holding our TMK Digital Media Venture Capital Conference entitled, Accelerators, Inspiration Spaces, and Startups on May 17, 2011 here in New York City.  I have the ability to give 5 lucky readers of this post admission to the event which will be from 8;15am-12:30pm.  It’ll be an intimate group  of <150 awesome people.

If you are interested in attending and want to come, please reach out using this form with 1-2 sentences of why.  I’d love to give the right people the opportunity to be here to mingle with our entire agency, our clients, and our friends from the entrepreneurial world.

Long Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE)

I’m going to buy my 2 kids, David and Ava, some Adobe stock.

I figured I’d start this post with a bold statement.  Hopefully I got your attention.

Adobe is upping their game.  They historically have been a software company focused on the creative & production industry.  They could have stayed this way and built a nice business for the future.  But, someone there is leading a charge and they IMHO are spot on with where they need to go.

Adobe was rumored to have tried to acquire Invite Media in 2010.
Adobe acquired Demdex, a data management platform.
Adobe just partnered with MediaLets for mobile rich media serving.
Adobe is rumored to be now flirting with Triggit.

Adobe, while historically never spoke to agency media teams, are now building a media foundation for the future.  While being able to tie creative into metrics, analytics & media delivery, they are able to get to the future state of marketing we all talk about.

Some other companies I’m liking due to their recent acquisitions and intentions:  IBM, GSI Commerce, Marketshare Partners

Note:  All of this is predicated on whether or not Adobe or any of the above companies can deliver on the potential that each acquisition or partnership brings to the table.  We’ve all seen how acquisitions don’t work, but in theory, I like all the above.

Transparent Data Streams

I’ve been wrestling with transparency lately – mostly around the consumer side of things.  Transparency is great, but if it comes at the cost of too data overload, then is it really worth it?

One of my blog readers reached out and said he’d started a service called VoyURL of which I’ve been participating with for the past 24-36 hours or so.  It’s interesting – right now as a novelty, but once I can use all of the data to extract meaning, it could have implications.  I’m not quite sure what they are yet.

I’ve pulled some initial reports of the entire VoyURL universe and my own.  It’s fun for me to see how my web consumption differs from the VoyURL universe.

It’s like Blippy for browsing data.

VoyURL Data

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Experience Platforms Powered by Technology

Read my previous post for a good preface to this one as it’ll help with the understanding.

The 80/20 rule for products are that 20% of the product users will be vocal and you won’t here from the other 80%.  Sometimes, this is more like 95/5.

I’m going to liberally stretch this to be 80% of the owners of products don’t really care how they are built but want the product benefits.  20% of the product owners are the passionistas and want to know everything about them.

Example:  Porsche just launched the Panamera 4S Hybrid.  The Porsche forums (on line) are having serious chatter around this car – both the good and bad, but the majority of people will never see this chatter nor really care about it.  80% of Porsche buyers (maybe more) don’t care how the engine works or which hybrid system it employs, they want to drive the car from point A to B and have a great experience doing it.

This is very important for the world of digital media and technology, especially if you are building consumer applications.  Let me explain.

As more and more people come access the Internet across the world, the digital passionistas who care about every technological nuance become less and less (diluted by the growth of the Internet).  As this happens, the experience of the application of the technology needs to be more powerful than the actual technology itself.  Again, please reference yesterday’s post for more on this.

Clay Shirky says it very well:  Once the technology have sunk deep enough in the culture, the social effects built upon the technology require the technology but aren’t about the technology

One of the questions I ponder which is relevant to this is that IF the web is less and less about the technology and more about experiences, then how sustainable is any one experience when humans are naturally curious and are always on the lookout for additional experiences.  Should companies on the web craft multiple experiences for consumers under different brands and connect them together?  Think of the assets AOL has, this could be interesting.  It’s not just about any one brand any more.

Another example:  I like to vacation with my family.  While we were in Aruba a year or two ago, we had an amazing time.  Have we been back?  Nope.  We’ve picked other countries and states to visit because the world is so vast and we want to experience so much of it.

Back in December 2010, I wrote a post entitled, I Don’t Want to be Monogomous.  The post talked about how I’d like to experience other phones and access devices but I’m locked into one mobile contract for one particular phone (iPhone 4).  These types of experiences are extremely limited and might do more harm than good to consumers in the long run.

To get back to the general thesis of this post, we’re seeing big bets made recently in what I like to call “experience platforms powered by technology.”  It’s not the technology itself that’s special, but rather the experiences that are built on top of the technology.  I explain the Twitter ecosystem here and why it’s special.  Facebook is fascinating too.  Quora – unless it opens up to be a platform that provides value creation for more than one business entity, it’s not that fascinating as a platform.

In a world where digital is going to penetrate most of our media vehicles, crafting the user interface and experience (overall presentation layer) is going to be of utmost importance.  Differentiating on features isn’t going to win, but differentiating on the experience that these features deliver is going to create lasting power with consumers.  At kbs+p Ventures, this is one of our major thesis and we are on the look out of awesome innovators in this area.

This post is all over the place, apologies for the rambling!

Technology as an Enabler

I was watching [on Fora.tv] a 2008 Clay Shirky talk he gave to a bunch of folks at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and he hit the nail over the head around a topic that I like to talk about, “technology as an enabler.”

One of my best friends, Andrew Sispoidis, one of the co-founders of IGA Worldwide, and funnily enough also remotely looks like Clay, once told me that technology should purely be an enabler.  Anytime you dive down deep into technology and promote the “technology” component, it’s a zero sum game as it becomes a feature war with your closest competitors.

In the video I watched today, Clay adds to the technology as enabler thought:

Once the technology have sunk deep enough in the culture, the social effects built upon the technology require the technology but aren’t about the technology

I like this a lot as it sums it up nicely.  Think about it this way:  when you have a great car trip, it’s probably because you listened to some great music or had fantastic conversation.  Very rarely do you say that the Brembo brakes worked flawlessly and the engine’s torque made the ride smooth.

Social effects become interesting when technology becomes boring.

I really like this topic.

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PointCast & UberMedia

Bill, we’ve never met but I’ve been a big fan of yours since the idealab! days.  I’d love to chat with you based on your recent media coverage around UberMedia.

I’ve been reading lots of the recent news around the acquisition of TweetDeck and your other acquisitions..  This morning, I read an interview on PaidContent which really crystalized this for me and appropriately, Chris Dixon named you a badass swashbuckler.

I don’t have such a cool name for you, but I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve been writing now for the past 5 years.  Note, this is not everything, but snippets of what I could find indexed in Google from my blog.

Here’s a snippet of what was written on PaidContent this morning:

For some of us, like you, some of these ideas of push news, push information, we’ve been there, we’ve seen them fail. I was involved with PointCast. Here’s what I think has happened. Some ideas are really, really great and fundamental, like the push power of PointCast, which Twitter is very similar to today. However, the time wasn’t right. The devices weren’t ready for it. We didn’t have mobile devices, didn’t have smartphones back when PointCast was out, The bandwidth was too low. One of the big challenges PointCast has was taking over the bandwidth of corporate servers so they blocked it. At that time, the dial-up modem was just too slow to handle the push graphics. Today, it’s ideal. The ideal circumstances are there so sometimes old ideas at the right time are really powerful and I think that’s the case today.

As many of you who have followed this blog since day 1, I’ve said that there is room for PointCast to come back.  I even attempted to purchase PointCast 3 years ago but that failed and that’s when I began building Tomzy in my private time.  Tomzy will be released in the near future once a few developers can finish up the initial alpha code.

Here are a few of my blog posts about PointCast over the years.  The media landscape is so ripe for it especially as all of our media consumption “devices” are becoming connected.

Predictions for 2006 (1/2/2006)  We’re going to see a “Pointcast” type network emerge for media.  For those who do not know what PointCast was, it was a startup formed in 1992 that provided relevant news and information to your desktop thru a push application.  See the Wikipedia definition here.  Pointcast didn’t fail due to it’s amazing product- it failed due to poor management and the timing of the marketplace.  I’d like to see Pointcast come back in some iteration that may bridge iTV, iRadio, Internet, and video games.  Do I believe that media can be 100% ad-supported?  Not all of the media, but there are certainly a mass quantity of media that can be – so lets get Pointcast up and running and support that relevant media.  (I’ve got an idea, so contact me)

PointCast & Widgets (8/29/2006):  Are we going to see a resurgence of the PointCast Network?

The Adobe Air Up There (9/27/2007):  Lots of possibilities for this platform. The number one possibility I’d like to see it enable/bring back? PointCast. If PointCast had launched utilizing the Adobe AIR platform, the technical hurdles that the developers faced in the 90s would have went away and PointCast may be the next new network. Who knows. I’d love to place a bet that a similar [PointCast] model will emerge soon utilizing this platform.

Digital Ramblings:  Long Post Warnings (12/7/2008):  Boxee is really interesting for many reasons, but the first of which is getting digital content onto my living room TV.  I can watch everything from Fast Lane Daily to TED Talks, Hulu to Netflix.  Genius.  I want to see Boxee expand to the desktop as well in terms of a content distribution system inside of widgets.  Think PointCast model.  I’d be very interested in talking further about this.

Bill, I welcome a conversation with you next time you are in NYC or I’ll fly out to San Francisco to meet with you.  You can contact me thru this form (sorry for not giving email address due to search engine spammers) and I’ll gladly be in touch.

If you aren’t Bill Gross, but are an entrepreneur who has serious aspirations around a “new” PointCast model and you can think larger than the traditional “desktop” experience, lets chat too.

Happy Saturday.

Darren