Category Archives: Technology

The First 72 Hours: New Platforms Fund (Hb)

I thought I’d write this post to recap the first 72 hours of launching the New Platforms Fund thru Herman blackbook.  Upon waking up this past Friday morning, we received front page coverage on TechCrunch with a less than stellar headline and then became top billing on Mashable.  Upon logging onto Twitter, started receiving DM’s from friends and folks I’ve never met with strong support for both the New Platforms Fund and Herman blackbook.

The initial gut reaction that most people had to the fund, as illustrated on TechCrunch, was in some cases negative, as $1-3k investments are in themselves, small.  Yes, that amount of money is extremely small, but what we’re trying to fund are simple applications of technologies off of innovative platforms from the napkin or alpha stage.  Beyond the dollar, we’re offering our network of Herman blackbook, which has been billed behind closed doors as the next generation of Allen & Co.

The response has been tremendous.  Within 12 hours, we had over 40 serious submissions ranging from from applications on Twitter, the iPhone, Android, and the Google API.  There were some miscellaneous submissions but we discarded them as they didn’t reside on a platform.  As of writing this on 6pm on Sunday afternoon, we have doubled our submissions and are combing through each one in-depth.

I also had several members of the press reach out to me and spoke to them about the vision of what Hb and the New Platforms Fund has.  The press, most notably some of the top financial periodicals and tech reporters of industry mags were asking me about why we chose to fund companies that do not own the platform in which they are building upon.  Very valid question and I used to wrestle with this as well.  My standpoint is that a rising tide raises all ships – meaning, we can make a platform more valuable by building on top of it.  No one ever said that innovation comes without risks.

We finished going through the first 50 ideas submitted and have written down why we aren’t going to be moving forward with many of them.  I thought it would be beneficial to all entrepreneurs out there to see why ideas may be rejected as this is a great learning experience.  These are posted on Hb, but I’ve also pasted here:

  • We do not have any existing domain knowledge in the particular market of which these ideas/concepts were submitted.  The power of Hb is more than just money; it’s our network and experience.  If we fund certain ideas, we want to ensure that they have the best opportunity to succeed.
  • Not a big idea.  Some of the ideas we’ve seen are just not big enough in terms of opportunity.
  • Competitive environment.  The market which the ideas/concept fall into are crowded and we’d rather place our bets in a less crowded space.
  • Market opportunity is limited.  If we need to approach the market with only a 3 month window to generate revenue, we are most likely to pass.
  • Idea doesn’t sit ontop of a platform.  Our fund is all about being part of an ecosystem and platforms such as Boxee, Appnexus, Twitter, etc.  Your idea should sit on top of a platform.
  • Explanation of idea was not clear from the description.
  • While we are investing in ideas and concepts, we couldn’t figure out the business application for it.
  • As much as we love video games, film, and music, we don’t invest in specific projects such as a new game, movie, or band.  We will however invest in services around an industry.  We try to stay away from very hit driven businesses.
  • No barriers to entry into the market.
  • Who is the team leader?  Should have experience relevant to the idea.
  • Lastly, not within the funds scope.

Each bullet point above is at least a blog post in itself.  Feel free to comment and I’ll respond in-depth if you want to learn more.

Looking forward to more submissions and making the Hb process a learning experience for everyone.

THE Digital Media & Internet Uber 2009 Prediction List

It’s that time of year again.  Approximately 360 days ago, I posted the 2008 prediction list that was picked up all over the web.  We all know that any prediction in itself holds little weight but when you aggregate many predictions together, you can start to see trends and use this for guidance to where industry/market is headed.

Take a peek at the links below of the 2009 predictions.  All of them are tagged by their content:  technology, digital media, social media, marketing, PR, Internet, consumer, etc.

If there is a solid prediction link/list that I’ve missed, submit it thru

Digital Ramblings: LONG Post Warning

As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks on 24th and 6th Ave and have been trying to collect my digital media thoughts over the past few weeks.  Apologies up front as they are eclectic.

•    Techmeme needs to launch an iPhone app as this would be my news source, displacing NY Times and WSJ.  I’d gladly pay for this.

•    I downloaded and played Zynga Poker on my iPhone 3G this weekend and loved it.  BTW, I am more of a fan of blackjack than Poker but the thought of social gaming was fantastic.  Nicely executed, Zynga.

•    The more screens there are in our society, the more they need to be cleaned.  I’ve spoken at length about starting an iPhone wipes company, but haven’t been able to get a supply source with enough margin to make it worthwhile.  My iPhone is filthy and I’m sure yours is too.  How do you clean yours?

•    I used to run the darrenSalon’s – they have been dead for the past year or so.  I’m thinking of doing a day up at a remote location about an hour north of the city.  We would focus on a specific topic – would this be of interest?

•    The way we learn and play instruments are changing.  Nintendo Wii is going to revolutionize the music space.  Yes, Rockband exists on Xbox 360 and PS3, but kids start with Wii prior to graduating to the more “intense” systems.  I’m curious to see how this is going to play out.

•    My friend Noelle took a job over at Indaba Music.  Congrats Noelle!

•    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.

Continue reading

More Important Than Ever: Adoption Curve

For those who have had heard me speak recently either at conferences or in person, I’ve been talking a lot about the Adoption Curve.  The adoption curve may be more important than ever due to the economic environment that we are facing.  Adoption of a product and the associated business model by society is more important than the innovation curve, as the financing market for startups is tough at this moment and survival of the fittest is in full swing.

Everett Rogers created the theory, Diffusion of Innovations, which is a theory of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Rogers introduced it in his 1962 book, Diffusion of Innovations, writing that “Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.

I’ve created a diagram to illustrate my thoughts:

There is a delta between the Line of Innovation (LoI) and the Line of Adoption (LoA).  The closer your product/service is towards the Line of Innovation, the harder it is going to be to survive today.  The LoA is where the mainstream audience is, and with this audience, comes the bulk of potential dollars.

Too many entrepreneurs innovate and create some wicked technology but don’t account for the adoption line and the market today.  In our economic environment, cash is king today and as I assess startups, I’m looking for them to be closest to the Line of Adoption.

As you build your startup or create a new service within your digital media empire, assess where your new product/service falls and do everything in your power to have it fall closer to the adoption line than the innovation line.

Additionally, it takes time for innovation to be adopted.  The delta that exists between the LoA and the LoI is essentially time.  Every day that we turn the lights on and our employees come to work, we are spending money (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little), so make sure:

Time to Adoption < Money in Bank.

P.S. I think the post title is misleading because this should not be more important than ever.  Every startup should build close to the adoption curve, rather than far out towards the far edge of innovation.

Inspirational: A New Look and Feel

Every year and a half or so, I’ve released a new look and feel for this blog.  I’m not a web designer (those were my early days) ]so it’s not like I want to show off some new skills that I have just learned.  I release a new theme purely for inspiration and to keep the blog fresh.  For those who want to see what this blog looked like over the past few years, check out Archive.org’s history.

I hope you enjoy the theme as it was designed by my friend Cristian Neagu of CandesProjects.  For those of you who have talked to or met Cristian, you know he’s one talented designer/developer who can handle many tasks.  I’ve known Cristian for a few years now and even opened my home to him when he came to America to work on an in-depth project with me.  He’s one heck of a guy and his skills are fantastic as well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the new redesign – and happy early Turkey Day.

My Go To Device

It’s official, my iPhone has taken over as my go-to device.  No longer do I reach for my laptop for simple tasks, nor turn on the television for others… the iPhone can do most of what I need.  Some would say that it’s only for personal purposes… well, at work, we use an Exchange server and the iPhone integrates great with it.

My Blackberry Curve, which I’ve spoken about as a fantastic device, has not been turned on since I’ve gotten my 3G.  I’m going to be selling it – have the original box and it’s less than 60 days of usage as I had to buy a replacement.  Know someone who wants to buy it?  Contact me.

I know I’ve been publicly bearish on mobile marketing but I absolutely understand where the future of computing is going and I’m loving it.  I believe marketing on the iPhone (or other mobile device) should be an extension of an online strategy… depending on the audience you [as a marketer] are looking to engage, marketing without a mobile component may be detrimental.

Last night, I used my iPhone to Tweet (to Twitter), take pics of my grandparents holding my son, send text messages, Google the street address of a sushi restaurant in Bronxville, and of course, chat with a colleague.  All with one device.  The [mobile] future is going to be pretty awesome.

IAB Ad Ops Summit Recap

IAB LogoI went to the IAB Ad Ops Summit yesterday here in New York.  The attendance was broken out as follows:  80% pubs, 15% agencies, 5% clients.  Not ideal as all sides of the equation should be represented when we’re talking about best practices and having an open conversation about them.

While I didn’t really find anything earth shattering, I liked hearing from other agencies and the publisher side about they are doing to make the ad ops process scale so that we can leverage it for all media as it becomes digital.

The IAB did an excellent job putting this together and the event was fairly top notch.  Randall Rothenberg, head of the IAB, released some best practices documents yesterday as well… check them out.

Here are some of the latest Tweets on the IAB

Quotes from the conference:
1.      “Recession is our opportunity” – Randall Rothenberg
2.      “Everything is going digital” – Google
3.      “When people are happy, I’m nervous.  When they are nervous, I’m happy.”  Warren Buffet
4.      “Agencies have yield management, the same way networks do, they should be structured as such.” Michele Burnham
5.      “Our industry is like an iPod with a parrallel port.” Benjamin Reid
6.      “Digital is the primary media for advertising in the future.”  Google
Key takeaways:
1.      Ad Ops folks are the guardians of profit as they optimize revenue flow and remove costs out of the equation
2.      Eliminate friction, maximize efficiencies (what Google wants to shift in the ad world)
3.      2003 was the first IAB impression standard
4.      Talk of Interactive tearsheets
5.      Best practices conversations are all about documentation and overcommunication
6.      The first electronic invoice (television spot) was delivered in 1989 by Grey Advertising
7.      We must reinspect every media business practice down to the human level as our entire industry is changing
8.      Google is revolutionizing an industry that is manual and inefficient.

Retail Game Cards

Such a genius business.  Extracted from the original interview.

And why do retailers love these cards? The economics work in their favor.

Now, there’s an interesting fact about these cards. Retailers love them over any other product they have in their store, because the cards themselves don’t take up any inventory.

They’re not activated until they’re purchased, so they don’t sit on the balance sheet of the retailer. They feel like “free money” to retailers. So it’s a very positive business for retailers to get into, and it really lowers the bar for any retailers who are unsure about it, they don’t need to worry about losing money on it.

The really big untapped market for these digital media companies is gift giving. No matter how much someone loves an online world no one is going to say “hey, merry Christmas. I logged into your account and gave you 25 bucks.” Not to mention the impulse buy.

Ad Networks & Strategy Quote

I’ve been a fan of Jeff for years and have met him on occasion at his year partner summits.  I agree with him on the point below, extracted from an interview on peHub.

What’s clearly not working, or, at least, won’t in the harsh economic climate we’re entering?

One interesting place to watch is the ad network business. It’s been a real boom time for them, and frankly, it’s been an easy business in which to succeed. There are probably more than 300 ad networks up and running and they aren’t differentiated on technology. It’s all about arbitrage; they buy inventory for a low price and sell it for a higher price and add little value in between. I think there will be  real shakeup in that business over the next year. In a downturn, it becomes imperative for people to become more efficient, and in an efficient marketplace, I don’t think there is room for these players. I’d guess that dozens and dozens of ad networks won’t make it through the next year.