Month: November 2007

Nov 21 2007

Making Money on the Internet

I just went upstairs and taught the folks at Lijit how to make money on the Internet.  They are all now proud and happy recipients of a bunch of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.  Hopefully they’ll remember to share the money with their publishers (and to steal underpants.)

It’s a lot of fun being in the same office building as folks we are investors in, although our previously quiet bathroom has been overrun by Me.dium people.  I missed that when we moved to downtown Boulder from our old office that we shared with Return Path and StillSecure.  Even if they have a giant turkey in their office.

Nov 21 2007

Lijit Live3D With Google Earth

Wanna see a cool hack?  Fire up Lijit Live 3D.  This is semi-real time view (there are some delays built in to prevent you from getting nauseous) in Google Earth of the geolocation of searches going on across the blogs that have installed and are actively using Lijit search.

The geolocation data is coming from Quova – another investment of ours.  Lijit told me the integration was trivial, which is great feedback.  Seeing this on a 30” screen at 7:30 in the morning is mesmerizing.

Update: There is a 2D version up that is equally entrancing.

Having run Lijit on my site for about six months, I’m seeing a fascinating increase in page views.  About 5% of my daily uniques do a search.  Each search generates another 5 page views.  So by using Lijit search I increase my daily page views by 25%.  I’m encouraging my friends at Lijit to quantify this across the system (and make it explicit for each publisher) – a 25% increase in page views just by putting the Lijit search wijit on a blog is powerful.

If these numbers hold across the system, Lijit’s motto can change from “we make blog search suck less” to “we increase your page views.”  If you are a publisher (e.g. blogger), give Lijit a try.

Nov 21 2007

Jared Polis in Iraq

I was at a meeting with the other two TechStars founders yesterday (David Cohen and David Brown) to discuss some new and exciting things around TechStars 2008.  Jared wasn’t there and in a sudden burst of amazing observation skills, I asked “where’s Jared?”

Both David’s chimed in an said “he’s in Iraq.”  I had one of those moments where you pause and process the words to try to make meaning of them.  Then I remembered that Jared was going to Iraq for Thanksgiving to support the United Way’s efforts to assist in the development of nonprofit and humanitarian organizations.  He’s blogging his trip and starts with a thought provoking post titled My Arrival in Amman, Jordan.

Jared is a long time friend (he was one of the first 10 people I got to know when I moved here – thanks Dave for the introduction.)  I have huge respect and adoration for Jared and am delighted he’s running for CongressAmy and I are big supporters and believe Jared is one of the clearest thinking, most principled, and true to his values person currently running for office today.  While I don’t agree with 100% of Jared’s positions, I know he’ll always listen, learn, express his point of view, and engage in every discussion.

If you are a voter in Colorado’s 2nd district, I encourage you to get to know Jared.  If you are a supporter, please donate to his campaign (any amount is helpful.)  And – if you are interested in participating in Thanksgiving in Iraq from the comfort of your home, follow the blog.

Nov 20 2007

My New MacBook Pro and Exchange

If you’ve been following along at home, you know that I just got a new MacBook Pro and am going to give it a shot for a while due to my current frustration with my laptop and all things Vista.  My partner Chris suggested to me that it’s not about productivity or frustration; rather it’s my endless desire to play with electronic toys (he is likely correct, but I need a business rationalization for my behavior.)

My biggest historical barrier to using a Mac has been our deep reliance on Exchange.  I’m a very heavy Outlook / Exchange users and exercise it fully (yes – I use tasks.)  All of my previous experiences – either with Entourage 2004 or my feeble attempts to get all the “pieces” working (e.g. mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks) on Mac apps with an Exchange data store have been failures.

I know that I have a default option of using Outlook in a Vista window on the Mac running Parallels or VMWare Fusion (I’ll try them both.)  But that doesn’t really feel very satisfying to me.  I just got a copy of Entourage 2008 Beta so I’ll give that a try and a good workout, although early reports are that Task Sync is still not implemented.

Are there any other real alternatives out there in the world, short of dumping Exchange (which is not going to happen)?  Help me Obi-Mac-A-Roni.  And – thanks to everyone (all 34 of you) that commented on the previous Mac post.  Ross assures me that he is installing every last piece of software that y’all recommended.

Nov 20 2007

Data vs. Facts

The notion of “data vs. facts” made its way into several conversations today.  I was at an interesting lunch today where we rolled around the in the idea of the different between them and then I had a call with an old friend on my way back to the office where he asked me a series of questions about my view of “fact based organizations” and decision making in startups.

I often say to people, “please recognize that I am just providing data – it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.”  I also love the quote “the plural of anecdote is not data.”  Without devolving into an analysis of the classic business school data -> information -> knowledge hierarchy, there can be a huge difference between data and facts, especially in an entrepreneurial context.

Entrepreneurs get data continually from all directions.  One of the greatest providers of data are VCs and board members.  A gigantic mistake that many entrepreneurs make is to interpret the data as facts.  Many VCs deliver data in a very self-unaware away – basically as assertions of truth (which I’ll call “facts” even though I know the definition can be murky.)  Unfortunately, the data that drives these facts are often invalid resulting in an invalid fact.  If the entrepreneur doesn’t view the fact as data, he will immediately build conclusions on a bad (fact free) foundation.  Blech.

Rather than train all the VCs in the world to deliver their data differently (and – more importantly – help them understand that data <> fact), it’s better for the entrepreneurs in the world to make sure they are sorting between data and fact correctly. 

This goes both ways (e.g. the VCs aren’t the only guilty ones here.)  As I drove home tonight, I pondered my end of day wrap up drink with an entrepreneur (who I really enjoy and respect) who spent the day with some of the TechStars companies.  I disagreed with some of the assertions he made about several of the companies he’d met with today and the data he delivered to them.  I expect he presented them very strongly (that’s his personality) and the entrepreneurs on the receiving end likely interpreted his assertions as fact, when they were only data.  Hopefully upon reflection (or maybe reading this blog post) they’ll realize he was merely giving them data.

They should also remember that the plural of anecdote is not data.  And – just to make it complicated, it might be the case that his data is fact, but you have to determine that for yourself.  Finally, please remember that this blog is merely data.

Nov 20 2007

Don’t Ask For A Referral If I Say No

Fred Wilson wrote an excellent post last month titled Saying NoI thought of it today when I found myself tangled up an in email exchange with someone I said no to.

I won’t repeat what Fred said (his post is worth reading) but I’ll add to it.  I get tons of inbound email from entrepreneurs (and bankers, and lawyers) pitching new investments.  I take a look at all of them and always try to respond within a day.  I say no to many of them, but I’m happy to be on the receiving end of them (and encourage you – dear reader – to send me stuff anytime.)

When I say no, I try to do it quickly and clearly.  I try to give an explanation, although I don’t try to argue or debate the deal.  I’m sure that many of the things I say no to will get funded and some of them might become incredibly successful companies.  That’s ok with me and – even if I say no – I’m still rooting for you.

However, if I say no, please don’t respond and ask me to refer you to someone.  You don’t really want me to do this, even if you don’t realize it.  By referring you to someone else, at some level I am implicitly endorsing you.  At the same time, I just told you that I’m not interested in exploring funding your deal.  These two constructs are in conflict with each other.  The person I refer you to will immediately ask me if I’m interested in funding your deal.  I’m now in the weird position of implicitly endorsing you on one side, while rejecting you on the other.  While this isn’t necessarily comfortable for me, it’s useless to you as the likelihood of the person I’ve just referred you to taking you seriously is very low.  In fact, you’d probably have a better shot at it if I wasn’t in the mix in the first place!

While I’m concerned about my time, it’s secondary.  I can say “no” a second time (to your request for a referral) very quickly and – if I’m so inclined – I can point you to this blog post. 

Somewhere in a parallel universe, someone trained a bunch of us (probably Networking 101) to always “ask for something” when you hear a “no” (e.g. keep the conversation going, get a referral, try a different question.)  There are cases where this isn’t useful – to you.

Nov 19 2007

Track The Snow In Boulder

Josh Larson, one of the guys at MadKast, is completely obsessed with snow.  His new blog – Boulder Weather – is a must read for anyone that lives here and cares about the weather.  Josh is pretty sure we are going to have snow on the ground by Wednesday.  It was 70+ today (beautiful, perfect November day) and is still around 60 as we settle in for the evening.

Nov 19 2007

Rock Band Is Almost Here

Any day now.  The first detailed reviews are out – Ben Kuchera has a great one up on Ars Technica subtitled I don’t want to be a guitar hero, I want to be in a bandI hope mine shows up before Thursday so I can spend Thanksgiving playing in my new Keystone band.  A new Mac, Rock Band, and a Kindle – all kinds of fun toys to play with.

Nov 19 2007

The Email APIs Are Coming – But Where Are They?

Pete Warden has a good post up titled Google, Yahoo and MSN Mail APIsIn it, he points at the various “sort of APIs” that are “sort of public.”  Later that day, in response to Pete’s post (not really) Google released the Google Apps Email Migration API.  Progress.  Deva Hazarika – who runs ClearContext – followed with a post titled The three I’s of “Inbox 2.0” where he suggests the issue isn’t the inbox, but the address book. Finally Matt Blumberg, who attended the top secret email meeting that was at Fred Wilson’s office last week, finished us off with In Search of Automated Relevance where he talks about “the channel of communication.”

While a universal set of APIs isn’t the solution, I find the need for an API in the context of the ubiquitousness of SMTP to be entertaining.  Most of the “sort of APIs” are limited in some way (one directional, not secure, not all inclusive, limited to a finite amount of traffic, available only to premium accounts, broken.)  As far as I can tell, none of these APIs really address the core issues in Deva or Matt’s posts.

I shudder to think that we need another abstraction (integration?) layer.  But maybe we do, especially when you broaden “email” to “messaging.” 

Nov 19 2007

My New Julien Stanczak

If you don’t have a vice, I recommend it. 

My good friend and fellow VC blogger Fred Wilson has a music vice.  His blog mixes his passion (ok – kind word for vice) for music with all the other stuff he thinks about, works on, cares about and loves.  When he first started writing about music I tended to skim the posts – now I read every one of them and learn more about music from them than I do any other way.

For some people it is music, for some people it is wine, and for some people it is – well never mind.  My vice is art.  I grew up with art all around me.  My mom (Cecelia Feld) is an artist and as a kid I was dragged from gallery to museum to gallery.  I acted like you’d expect an 11 year boy to act (mom – where is the soccer ball – I don’t want to go to the stupid gallery) but by the time I got to MIT it had sunk in.  MIT doesn’t really have “minors” (they call them “concentrations” just to be different) – one of my concentrations was in Art History.  I now even enjoy going to Santa Fe for the weekend.

Amy and I love to wander around galleries and museums.  Our pace is the same – we are skimmers (people that move briskly through the museum absorbing everything) rather than people than stand and stare at the art.  We learned a long time ago (from a wise art collector) that you should “buy what you love to look at.”  It’s a simple strategy that has served us well over the past 15 years of evolving from beginning art collectors (I remember the agony we went through when we bought our first $1,000 piece since it was a meaningful percentage of my net worth at the time) to what we are today.

On Saturday, we bought our first Julien Stanczak piece while hanging out with our friends at the Danese Gallery in Chelsea.  It’s called Continuum (1995).


It’s a big boy – 70 inches by 70 inches.  Stanczak is an early practitioner of Op Art and is less well known than artists like Bridget Riley (and therefore much more affordable.)  Op Art is short for “optical art” and is typically a painting that takes advantage of optical illusions.  Standing in front of a piece like Continuum is mind blowing (and can quickly turn you into a zombie.)

In a couple of weeks, I’ll have Continuum hanging in our office in Boulder. Please feel free to stare at it.  If you enjoy the art posts, or want to learn more, follow the Wikipedia links above.  I’ve been pleasantly amazed with the quality and depth of information on Wikipedia around art and art history.  It’s a great (and safe) way to satisfy a vice.