Monday, June 29, 2009

What's on Tap for Vyoo?

This Saturday is our impending wide beta launch. While I'm excited about actually getting things opened up a bit more, I'm also tempered. We're working on hiring a new UI designer who I've spent quite a bit of time with trying to create a good design. She's made some tremendous recommendations and put us on track to have a great UI. Unfortunately it won't be close to ready for the launch. At the point where the UI is good, I'll feel a lot better about everything. The UI right now is a bit messy. But that's what you get when you have developers try to make UI revisions.

Looking for mentors:
I've started to more aggressively look for a mentor. Someone who can help define a strategy in order to approach investors, partners, and others we'll need help from. I've looked for one in the past, but I was apparently not ready for it. I guess the only advice I can give is that you'll know when you're ready for one.

Looking for investors:
After Saturday, we'll start to aggressively pursue the financing track, determining who and what we'll be looking for. This is where I'm assuming our b school background will really pay off.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Student Loan Bailout. Sort of.

There's a new federal load program for people with Stafford and Grad PLUS loans. It's taking the place of the current system. Most b school classmates of mine used Stafford loans. These new rules will reduce your payments and also make you eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 or 25 years. The former if you work in the public/government sector. It will also generally reduce your monthly payments and prevent compounding of interest accrual if you're on deferral.

The payments are based on your earnings and how they related to the poverty level. Even people with six figure salaries could qualify, so it makes sense to check it out.

You should contact your lender to see if you qualify. You can read more details here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Revenue Models for Startups, Facebook, and Twitter

I've been thinking a lot about revenue models for these Web 2.0 companies that nobody can seem to monetize. While we have a monetization strategy for Vyoo, others do not and will not anytime soon. One possible solution is completely changing the model.

Problems: the traditional advertising model does not exist on Facebook or Twitter. And it won't. I reason this because people don't go to Facebook to make purchases and Twitter is quick, continuous consumption of streamed data. Sure you could throw in ads here and there but it would ruin how Twitter works.

So what about public funding? I'm saying this as an absolute opponent of more government. I hate the healthcare plan. I hate taking over the automobile industries. I hate bailing out Wall Street. Mainly because these industries made mistakes. They should be able to survive and thrive if they were run properly and had smart strategies. But there's some rationality to public funding for certain things that cannot operate without it. Like the funding of some baseball parks for example. Because ultimately they provide a value for the community as a whole which wouldn't be entirely possible without the funding. So how about public funding for sites that provide real value to our people and the government. Twitter has been instrumental in getting the word out in Iran. It's been so important the the State Department asked Twitter not to go down for its scheduled maintenance during the crisis.

Yankee Stadium cost the tax payers of New York nearly $2 billion (here). And having taxpayer money go to Twitter or Facebook doesn't hurt anyone - like some of these bailouts do.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What Happened to the American Dream? No To Socialization! Of Medicine or Anything Else!

I voted for Obama. I'll be the first to admit it. And while he's doing a great job in some respects, he's doing a downright terrible job in others. What I'm most concerned about are his socializing tendencies. You've already heard me bitch about saving the automobile industry. I think it's an utter joke.

Let me sum it up for you in a few sentences. All of the jobs that proponents of saving the auto industry claim would be lost if GM/Chrysler, etc. were shut down could easily be replaced if we spent that money building new supply chains for electric or hybrid cars. Give Tesla Motors 50 billion and they'll be hiring tens of thousands of workers to keep up with the demand for their products. It's a joke. And anyone notice how GM is "all of the sudden" coming out with socially responsible and environmentally friendly cars when they claimed that they didn't have the technology just a few years ago. What a bunch of BS. I'm getting pissed writing this.

But it's not only autos that really kills me. It's health care and every other industry he's trying to socialize. The US has the most advanced medicine and health care system in the world. Hands down. Yes it's expensive. Because these people train for years to provide American's with the quality of care they deserve. And. They save LIVES! Put a price on that while your auto industry gets government handouts. So instead of really revamping the system to make it more affordable, while keeping the quality of health care high, we're ruining the system. There are lots of examples of ruined systems already, even though Michael Moore would like you to think otherwise. Take a look at Massachusetts for example. Here are some problems:

1) Long lines
2) Decreased overall quality of care
3) Lack of interest in medicine
4) Increase in taxes

"No sir, we can't look at you now. I know you have heart problems, but see, we have a line. Take a number". Want that to happen to you?

Healthcare in the United States is 15% of GDP. The highest in the developed world. And that's where the problem lies.

To cut costs, the government continues to cut reimbursements to doctors. Yes, they are reimbursing the care givers less. Not figuring out a way to make healthcare more affordable. So they expect doctors to treat you the same way, but now we're going to pay them less. A lot less. Yea, no worries. Those 4 years in med school, 4 years of internships, years of residency, and your fellowship? That several hundred thousand in debt from school? Don't worry about that. You're have time to make that back. And while you're at it, we have new regulations that require you to update your office technology, sell your lab equipment back to the hospital so you can't make a profit, accept uninsured which we won't reimburse you for, and you have to work more hours just to make what you used to earn. What other profession pays you less the longer you work? There are no promotions or stock options in medicine.

So here's what needs to be done. Screw the insurance companies. Let's do something about that. Make them compete. Right now they get to cherry pick who they accept. Make them accept everyone. Provide tax relief for those buying their own health care or paying for their health care out of pocket in some way. And how about the pharmaceutical companies. They're printing money. Figure out a way to get prescriptions for less. I mean, shit, we can get them less in Canada, and they're made in the US. Socializing medicine WILL NOT WORK! It's not working in Massacusetts. Or Canada (long lines). Or Sweden (outragoues taxes). Or anywhere else. Not in its current incarnation.

Another reason it won't work is because nobody will want to go into medicine anymore. What was once a prestigious field where the brightest and best students flocked will now be an assembly line job. Please don't ruin our health care system.

And while I have many ideas, here's a proposed solution that highlights most of them. And it's from a Senator, so maybe we'll see it (here).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pineapple Express Sucks!

Who the hell recommended this crap show to me? Lots of people, that's who. I can't believe people like this movie. It sucks. And it made me realize that Seth Rogen really isn't funny. Well, that's not true. I already knew that. I'll tell you who's funny out of that new crew of stoner jokers. That super fat kid from SuperBad. And that other kid from SuperBad - the one who was in Juno. I don't know their names, but they're hilarious. I thought they'd all be in this movie too. But no.

I don't even think I laughed throughout the entire movie. And I stopped watching it before it ended I was so bored. I started wondering if maybe I needed to be super stoned to watch it. But since I don't smoke weed anymore, I was resigned to watch it sober. But then again, those other stoner movies I still find hilarious so that's not it.

Bad plot. Bad script. Bad everything.

Anyway. Save your $3. By the way, I looked up this movie on Rotten Tomatoes just to see how well it's been received. It got a 65%. Which means nothing to me since Rotten Tomatoes is a thumbs up or down. What's a good score on that site anyway?

Perfectly coined by Richard Roeper (and I hate critics):
Watching Pineapple Express is like sitting dead sober in a room with a bunch of stoned people who are laughing uproariously. They’re having a great time. You’re not.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hello Bank Of America. So Far So Good. AND a $75 Sign Up Bonus

I was asked what bank I switched to. It's Bank of America. I can't really praise them yet, but I will say I'm happy so far. And while I'm not happy with Mr. Lay's unimpressive stint as CEO, their purchase of Merrill, their ATM fee hikes that led the industry, and a litany of other issues, I still decided to give them a try. So why did I choose BoA? It really came down to three things:
1) Free checking. Totally free. No BS!
2) Loads of ATM's, since that's how I get my money.
3) And a $75 signup bonus for opening a checking account (and adding direct deposit). You should always be on the lookout for these sign up bonuses. They change frequently. And sometimes they're as high as $200.

Here's the bonus link (here):

So far I've been impressed with two things:
1) Customer service. They were incredibly helpful and friendly on the phone. Unlike Wells.
2) Their online portal. It's better than Wells and much more secure which makes me feel more comfortable.

I'm sure there are people who have issues with Bank of America. We'll see how my experience goes.

Goodbye, Good Riddance Wells Fargo. I Hate You!

I know there are a few Wells Fargo employees who read my blog. To you, I apologize for what's coming. I'm sure your departments at Wells are run and managed like well oiled machines. It's just personal/business banking I'm not too fond of.

It is with absolute joy that I walked into Wells Fargo yesterday to close my personal accounts. While I closed my business accounts weeks ago, I needed to get my new ATM and pin before I closed my personal accounts. I mean, how else could I overdraw my account if I didn't have an ATM card?

It was actually a little sad. That marketing ploy they put on your ATM or credit card that says "Member since" really works. I've been a Wells Fargo member since 1995. That was my first year of college. My first real bank account. And that was back when I was living in Rochester, New York. A hellhole, but that's besides the point. It was a long time as a loyal customer. Wells has made thousands from me...if not more. And apparently it wasn't worth it to keep me around during these tumultuous last two years while I get my business going. And for a few mere $12 fees. I still can't get over how ridiculous they were in dealing with me. Absolutely no flexibility. No support for startups or entrepreneurs or loyal customers. And they're a damn San Francisco bank. Home of the startup.

Anyway. It really was a pleasure in the end. "I'm here to close my account". Shazaaaaaam! I was thinking. They probably didn't care. But I did. And then I marched that bank check over to my new bank where I was met with open arms. And a smile.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How To Get Freebies: Part III -

The next freebie that I want to highlight is for House Party. House Party is a website that lets you sign up to host a house party for their corporate sponsors. Their sponsors run the gamut in terms of offerings: Ford, BumbleBee Foods, TruTV, Chef Michaels, Carnival, Clairol, Domino's, Oscar Meyer, TNT, Kaplan, Sargento just to name a few. The parties come and go throughout the year, so if you don't see something you like, just wait.

I found them last year...I'm not really sure how. But they were featuring a Margaritaville Party. And since I'm a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, this was right up in my wheelhouse. In order to qualify for the party, you need to sign-up, fill out a one page essay/description of why you should be a host for the party, and promise to post blog entries and photos from your event.

I was one of the winners of the Margaritaville party. They sent me about 20 lei's, but most importantly, they sent me a Margarita machine. It was awesome. And once a week, they'd send additional products, like a Buffett Live CD, cups, extra blenders, part favors, and coupons for the guests.

I honestly can't believe how much stuff they sent. I'm not sure how well it worked from a financial perspective for Margaritaville. But if this is how they spent their marketing, it provided plenty of goodwill. All of my friends loved the machine... and we continue to have Margaritaville parties every summer. In fact, we're planning our next one right now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Love Ruby on Rails! Code Snippet for Comma Separate List

I love Rails. I really do. It's by far the coolest language I've ever used. Just as an example, today I was printing out destinations that a user has visited. I created an array, looped through it, and printed each destination, followed by a comma. Now the last element would always have a comma after it, so I was thinking of a better way to implement this, instead of just removing the last comma after I had created the list. That's a lot of work to just create a damn list.

Well, of course Rails has a helper method. It's the to_sentence method that you can call on an array. I just converted my object store to a collection: