Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Startup Camp - SF May 4th - 5th

Again, sorry about the minor delay in getting back to this blog! I've been running around lately and wondering what happened to the time. I've started jumping back into coding, which is definitely not my favorite way of spending my time, but it's a necessary evil for getting this product out on time. What's on time? Yea, not really sure about that either.

This weekend (Sunday - Monday actually), Startup Camp is going on in San Francisco. The best part about it, it's free. So it really is for entrepreneurs (note to self: write a post about the different types of entrepreneurs, because there are quite a few).

What is Startup Camp?
Well, according to the website, it's an unconference. What that means is that we, as entrepreneurs, get to run the show. We get to recommend what discussions take place, which is actually pretty useful. I thought about making a few recommendations but I figured that would require a commitment to attend those discussions. As most people who know me, I'm not very good at committing to things when I'm unsure of the value.

What will be valuable though is actually attending the conference. It's really a forum to meet and discuss all things startup with other people who are going through the same thing. I've found recently that it's hard to get the time AND/OR attention of people who aren't sharing in your pain or have anything tied to your endeavor. The best interactions I've had are with other entrepreneurs or friends in the VC community (who owe me because we're friends). Everyone else seems to tune you out if what you're talking about isn't right up in their wheelhouse. Or if you don't have something that's going to directly provide them with value. Me... I'm a fan of giving to others for the pure sake of it. And that's part of the reason I like writing this blog.

Point is this. If you're in SF and you're an entrepreneur, go to Startup Camp. It's one of the few free things in life this weekend. And say hi if you see me. That's my picture there on the right. I'm a little older, but should look pretty much the same. I've pretty much looked the same since I was 12 years old.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Maybe just a hiccup - but my GMail Labels Disappeared!

Today my labels went missing from my Gmail inbox! It was only for a brief time so it may have been some sort of browser anomaly. I tried reloading the page and opening a new browser window but that still didn't solve the issue. A few minutes later and a few more page refreshes, and voila, they came back.

I did a few searches but just found some permanent problems with interfering scripts and the like... I'll keep my eye on this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

VC Investments - Note: I Hijacked This Posting!

I want to start with the caveat that I got the content from this post from not one, but two sources (and yes, I will source them). I first read it over on Tech Crunch. But he was writing about an article over on Paul Graham's blog, entitled "Why There Aren't More Googles?". It's an awesome read especially for those companies that aren't getting anywhere with funding.

"The reason there aren't more Googles is not that investors encourage innovative startups to sell out, but that they won't even fund them. I've learned a lot about VCs during the 3 years we've been doing Y Combinator, because we often have to work quite closely with them. The most surprising thing I've learned is how conservative they are. VC firms present an image of boldly encouraging innovation. Only a handful actually do, and even they are more conservative in reality than you'd guess from reading their sites."

But my favorite line of the whole article is here:

"Whoever the next Google is, they're probably being told right now by VCs to come back when they have more "traction."

Now I'm not saying we're anything close to the next Google, but what I am saying is that I've become increasingly more surprised, as we talk to more people, that you need to have an incredible amount of traction to get even speak to VC's, let alone actually close a deal. Our idea requires an investment - and if we can't afford it, we'll eventually have to shut down operations. It's unfortunate, because I imagine there are a great deal of very bright people out there trying to solve some really unique problems who aren't able to. We hear time and time again, "I don't think people will use your service?". Why don't you think that Mr. VC? Because there isn't a service out there to measure us against? Because people will be opposed to having a more efficient and richer internet experience? Because we're making your life easier and you just couldn't have that? I've got an idea for you - have the balls to take a risk, that's we all of us entrepreneur's are doing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Startup of the Day - You Noodle

I came across a great startup today. You Noodle. They're in beta, but they seem to be growing fairly quickly. At least from the stream of new users I've seen throughout the day. They put together entrepreneurs, advisers, investors, and entrepreneur wannabee's - in a fun and pretty intuitive/easy to use social environment. The provide a platform for creating startup profiles, networking, business competitions, university innovation sharing, events, and a place for investors to explore hot startups.

One of the things that makes the service great is the quality of users. Much like Facebook, they seem to have started with a base of people from some of the top schools - Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, among others. They're funded by some of the same people who have invested in Facebook, Slide, Yelp, and other top startups.

I've tried other websites like this, such as Go Big Network, but there isn't a great social component there and there's nothing to keep me coming back. Sure, I got a few bites when I posted some project needs there, but nothing every panned out. You Noodle is a much more social and friendly environment where I imagine I'll be interacting and exploring much more. This goes along with my long held belief that user interfaces are an important part of a company's success.

I'm totally addicted to browsing through the startups. There are some really cool companies!

New Legal Counsel - Welcome Reed Smith!

A month or so ago, I found out that our partner at Fenwick & West was leaving. It was a bit of a surprise and since we hadn't officially spoken to him, we were left wondering what happened. He's a busy guy so it took a little while to touch base, but we finally got to catch-up. He got an offer he couldn't refuse and after 20 years at Fenwick, he decided he wanted more exposure to global markets. Reed Smith is gigantic - with offices all over the States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. And he truly sounds like a kid in a candy store. He's already been able to dabble in international affairs and new lines of work, which I thought was pretty cool for someone who's been working in the same profession for 20 something years. It's great to hear people who get to enjoy new opportunities especially after such a long time at one place.

When we initially heard the news, we were inclined to stay with Fenwick. After all, we had chosen Fenwick for both our partner (who is awesome) and also what Fenwick brought to the table - an extensive network in Silicon Valley. And, of course, their reputation as one of the leading corporate counsels in the Bay Area. We thought jumping ship would just cause undue headaches. A few weeks later we were stuck in limbo at Fenwick. They were having trouble matching us to a partner who had the time and the background that would be beneficial to Vyoo. I think they had expected us to go to Reed - which I guess is typical protocol - to follow your partner, but we hadn't been in this position before.

We went to lunch at Reed Smith today to meet with Rob Dellenbach to discuss joining him there. After a great lunch, in which he brought along Tom Quinlan to talk about our business and help us nail down our pitch, we officially decided to move over.

We'll see where it takes us, but if we ever have any international needs or need the power of one of the 15 largest law firms in the world. We got it! And we're still with Rob, who's always been a grand supporter of what we're up to.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Got A Job! Seriously. And I learned Something Along the Way.

With our decision not to raise financing until we got a product out there, times are are tough for me financially. I officially went into credit card debt last week - which I guess is a requirement for any legit, non trust fund/wealthy individual. So I'm ok with it. My parents aren't, but what can I do? In order to pick up some cash for spending money and to pay down my debt, I've recently joined Kaplan to tutor students for the GMAT. I've also been helping out people with their business school applications/essay writing, which is something I wish I had taken advantage of when I applied to business school. At the time, I didn't really know enough about the process to write excellent essays - and getting some help would have been ideal. I didn't even know that this sort of service was offered. I do now, after the fact. Finding clients on Craiglist hasn't been that sweet. Generally they're more interested in looking for a good deal than paying for what you get. Since I have it in me to help other people, I had been accepting less than market price. Fortunately, that's changing. In any event, the tutoring should be an interesting experience. Definitely good practice presenting to people - which will be handy when we're pitching our business. It's also part time and incredibly flexible, so that helps too.

One of the benefits of being a broke ass entrepreneur is the lesson I've learned in saving money. I've never been very conscious of my financial situation. I've always made a decent enough salary to live comfortable and spend stupidly. I'd always pay for things even with friends and never really cared if they got me back (unless it was totally ridiculously obvious that someone was a leech). Boy have times changed. I even look for coupons in the Sunday paper. My parents will probably be shocked to hear that since they knew all about my frivolous spending habits. I never even kept track of any money. Well, I'm much more diligent these days and it will pay dividends long after I start earning a paycheck again. I might even be able to save some money!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Entrepreneur College - It's Time Again!

I wrote about this last Fall. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati (WSGR), one of the premier law firms in the Valley, has an Entrepreneur's College they put on twice a year. It's a 14 week course that meets once a week in their office in Palo Alto and is broadcast at most of their US offices. It was a great place to find out some of the intricacies of starting a company. I also picked and chose which were relevant to what I needed to learn. They give you some free books and a great folder with all the presentation material if you happen to miss some things.

Register here

Webinars - HubSpot

I must have signed up for this some weeks ago - because I have no idea why an email reminding me about a webinar today ended up in my inbox. Anyway, the short and sweet - a webinar is an online seminar. You can dial/Skype out/whatever into the webinar, download some software, and you can view their slides on your screen. It's a pretty cool technology and I'm in the middle of listening to a talk on Social Media Marketing. It's quite good and I thought I'd pass along the info. It's probably a bit too late to hop on today, but Hubspot has one of these every so often. There's one in May on SEO, which is a fast growing, but somewhat ambiguous field designed to improve your standing in search results. It's something that can really make your product grow and sell.

Anyway, on to HubSpot - which is really an entire marketing solution for your business. They are obviously very tied into Web 2.0 which is a good sign if you're online. They work hard to get your business known - with consultants, training materials, and tools/products for analytics, while gaining visibility through Digg, Delicious, Facebook, etc. Seems good. Anyway, this isn't an advert for HubSpot, so here's the link:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Microsoft Yahoo Merger/Acquisition

Microsoft yesterday decided they were putting a time limit on Yahoo to decide whether they wanted to peacefully be acquired or whether they wanted Microsoft to pursue a hostile takeover. While there's certainly some merit to Microsoft's efforts to finalize the deal - especially because Yahoo seems to be shopping themselves around through efforts with Google and MySpace, this really gets me back to the point of whether this was a good idea in the first place?

While people are arguing the benefits of combining two players who are having a difficult time competing against Google, I'm of the impression that gobbling up a behemoth like Yahoo is only going to cause undue trouble for Microsoft.

First, I'd like to take a look at what each company is bringing to the table. Both have an enormous online presence. Both have an email service. Both have search, maps, news sites, IM, ad services, and lots of attempts at innovation. There's plenty more that they share, but I think it's important to really note their differences, since this is where they can presume to add value. Microsoft has an offline suite of software applications including operating systems/servers. They have hardware too, such as consoles, PC equipment, music players, etc. They are really a hardware and a software company. Yahoo, up until now, is basically a software company. One of the value adds could be to integrate Yahoo's online into offline as well. That's of questionable value since the world is really moving online, not off. What other differences? Well, they both are equally, though differently inept at competing with Google. They don't seem to understand the innovation thing. So I guess this is more of a similarity. Maybe they can cut out all the duplicate crap they provide (just look at their respective cluttered portals)?

What could possibly be the strategy moving forward for Microsoft? If it's to merge their online presences - that's a ridiculous strategy since they will just open up the market to the next players down the line. If it's to keep their presence the same - well then what's the benefit, besides maybe laying a few people off in this new company? In my opinion that should have been done by each of these companies anyway. If it's to improve innovation at Microsoft in the online world, well, Yahoo has shown that they can't keep up with Google in that respect anyway - and Microsoft definitely can't. Maybe it's just to shake things up for two stalling companies. If it is, well, that's a crappy reason to spend 44 billion dollars.

I'm really having a hard time seeing the synergies that could make this work. In addition, I'm reminded of all those large mergers in the past that haven't worked despite the fanfare. Compaq/HP, Sprint/Nextel, WorldCom/MCI, AOL/Time Warner. Sure HP is doing well - but that's as much a result of management changes than picking up Compaq.

Well, time will tell and I may be proven wrong. I'm just not ready to jump on this bandwagon.