Facebook finally released a feature that lets you group your facebook "friends" into lists. God bless America.
I created a list of "Real Friends."
My "Real Friends" list is 50 people right now, and I'm going to try to keep it at a 50 person cap.
After my facebook purge of about 100 "friends", I have 517 total facebook "friends". This means my ratio of Friends:"Friends" is 9.67%. Not bad.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Facebook finally released a feature that lets you group your facebook "friends" into lists. God bless America.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
As has already been rehashed in the blogosphere, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg finally published another 'I'm really sorry' post on his facebook blog.
"We really messed this one up.... I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with." --Mark ZuckerbergWait a moment... My bad. That quote is from Mr. Z's September 2006 newsfeed fiasco mea culpa. My mistake. Shame on me.
Hmmm. What happens when we get to "Fool me thrice"?
Monday, November 12, 2007
I woke up Saturday morning to a facebook news feed filled with new relationship announcements, "fan" declarations, haiku-like status updates and everything else you can imagine. The problem is, most of these updates came from people I barely know anymore (or ever).
At first, it might seem nice that I know that a friend of a friend of mine who I met once in college is "shocked" because he just had his first baby. But why do I feel like it is a bit delusional of me to feel excited for him? Why should I care? Is my life actually any richer because I have my finger on the pulse of a wider network of acquaintances? Is my life any richer because a wider network of acquaintances have their finger on my pulse?
As my list of friends swelled from 200 to 400 to 600, and with that, got filled with "friends" who should never have strayed from my LinkedIn network, facebook is increasingly feeling like a really messy attic.
People use to be pack rats with things. Now we're all becoming pack rats with friends (and in LinkedIn's case, with business contacts). We collect "friends" like signatures in a high school yearbook or old postcards, stowing them away just in case. With facebook's illusion as a limitless always-clean attic, we are never forced to do a spring cleaning. But the problem is, facebook doesn't have shelves in its attic. I can't have my easy-to-reach friends, and the in-the-back-of-the-closet friends. They're all mixed together. And it just ain't working for me anymore. It's time for a spring cleaning.
So, this is my formal declaration: facebook has been too slow in rolling out their "linkedin-killer-network" feature we've heard so much about. So I have resolved to reduce the number of facebook "friends" I have. This weekend, I took my first sweep. It's not easy, like throwing anything away, I can't help but wonder whether I'll regret it later. But after the initial self-doubt, with each friend removal, I feel like I've removed a little clutter from my life. You might want to give it a try...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Several months ago at a Red Herring event, I bumped into Mike Levin, the creator of HitTail.
Mike has put together a nifty little SEO tool that tracks the keywords that drive traffic to your site, and then suggests key words that you should emphasize in your content in order to drive more traffic and have a higher page rank. I thought I would give it a try, and it has turned out to be a fun experiment. Here is the top ~30 of my "HitTail":
Appropriately, my #1 search term is "Girls gone wild." You should see some of the search terms I have in my long tail...
Saturday, October 20, 2007
It's been a while. My apologies.
As a pre-MBA, half-latina, female, East Coast, VC Analyst, I finally decided that I had one-too-many signifiers, and that it was time to knock off one of those puppies. So the past couple of months, any creative energy I have has been funneled into GMAT studying and essay questions akin to "What do you want to do with the rest of your life?" Gotta love it.
As I've gone through this process, I can't help but wonder whether the "application package" will ever become more of a LinkedIn+Blogger-esque page that would allow an applicant to link to important highlights of their web presence, in addition to containing their essays, resume et. al?
At the very least, will schools ever include "Blog / Web Presence URL:" as one of the template questions alongside "Mailing Address"? That would be a nice touch.
Anyways, this post is a cheapo (nothing easier than breaking a blogging spell by explaining the drought!), but I look forward to jumping back into the blogging dialogue.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
"Winning the top computer science award in the United States is a great honor, but being the first woman to receive it is even more special, says Frances E. Allen, the recipient of the 2007 Turing Award...."
Read the full announcement here: Frances E. Allen: First Woman to Receive the Turing Award.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
More than a month ago, my friend Charlie sent me an important email. I believe the subject of the email was "You should grab your domain!!!!!" Okay - there was just one "!", but there was definitely a sense of urgency.
In his email, one of his comments struck me - "I moved from thisisgoingtobebig.typepad.com to www.thisisgoingtobebig.com very early and while I never needed to move platforms, I know I have the flexibility to do that or change my site from a blog to maybe something else down the line... who knows in 50 years...."
What a good point... Spurred to action, I went to GoDaddy.com and picked up www.adventurista.com. As it happens, a couple of weeks later, I got another email in which someone offered me $200 for the domain. So while I consider a new career in scooping up domain names (clearly I have a talent!), please be aware of the new URL -- www.adventurista.com.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
For some time now, small pockets of momentum (and hype) have accumulated around companies like TerraPass and NativeEnergy. But it’s time we question the premise behind these programs.
What companies like TerraPass and NativeEnergy do is enable a climate-concerned consumer to “offset” their carbon emissions by funding alternative energy projects. So if you use 4000KW / year of electricity, you can “offset” that by paying to add 4000KW of alternative energy derived electricity back to the grid.
But when you think about it, these programs sound incredibly like the church selling indulgences back in the 1500s. Sin all you want, “offset” your sins by donating to the Church, and you still get a one-way ticket to Heaven. Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes hits on a similar idea in his column, Live Bad, Go Green.
In a thought provoking post, my colleague Justin Label sheds more light on this moral loophole: By putting a price on carbon emissions, consumers who once felt an ethical obligation to cut emissions might feel less of that obligation when they can pay to undo their carbon footprint.
Consequently these programs shift the emphasis away from changing our behavior (e.g., buying a Prius) to instead paying to “make it all better” (e.g., offsetting my Hummer’s omissions). A Carbon Indulgence by any other name.
Although I like the original intention of these programs, I can’t in good conscience keep the NativeEnergy badge on my blog anymore. Dialogue around our Carbon Footprints should be more about making us (and the government) change our behavior (by making us feel damn guilty about our footprints), than about paying to offset them.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Let's just say my parents are not Hillary Clinton fans. My Dad can't stand her because he can't stand Bill and thinks that Hillary will just be his mouthpiece. And my Mom can't stand her because her campaign brings back too many bad memories of Argentinean politics.
While I give Hillary more credit than just being a mouthpiece, there is something to both my parents' perspectives. The Scary Truth: American politics increasingly resembles Argentinean politics. (Not exactly a great role model!)
Just this past week, Argentina's current president, Néstor Kirchner, announced that he will not be running for re-election, despite his popularity. Instead, his wife will be running for President.
The Mom: "It's the same corrupt Argentinean politics that we saw with Evita Peron." i.e., It doesn't matter who the actual President is. It's still the same politics and the same family just wanting to stay in power for as long as possible.
And potentially, the same corrupt American politics. It is scary to think that the highest office in American politics might stay in the hands of two families -- The Bush's and the Clinton's -- for so long.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
While everyone has been linking to blog.pmarca.com, I have been resisting the temptation to link to Ron Rosenbaum's article in Slate, "The worst celebrity profile ever written?"
I finally found an excuse.
Ron's article is about Esquire's recent "fawning" profile on Angelina Jolie. But it could have well enough been about iPhone's pre-release reviews.
The money quote summary:
"The rules of the game, as established by the glossy magazines and the stars' PR reps, ensure that 'access' [to celebrities / the iPhone] ... and the all-important exclusive cover shot are granted only to those magazines and journalists who will refrain from anything but fawning prose. It works out well for everybody. Celebrity journalists who play along get a good payday, magazines get newsstand sales bumps, and the rest of us are inculcated into the received myths of Celebland, the legends that sustain the illusion that it is somehow truly important."
What does this mean?:
Only celebrity rags that treat celebrities nicely gain access to those celebrities. Look at Jolie's relationship with People vs. US Weekly. People magazine has never uttered a negative peep about Jolie, and was "awarded" (albeit for a hefty price) with exclusive photos of newborn Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. US Weekly, on the other hand, hasn't exactly had the most flattering cover shots of Jolie (I think the current issue shows an alleged 85lb Jolie). Not surprisingly, US Weekly would be lucky to have Jolie even glance their way.
But playing to celebrities' favor for exclusive interviews / pictures translates into access and therefore articles/photos and therefore higher magazine sales. And so the cycle perpetuates.
Now, if there ever was an electronic celebrity that reporters would fight to have early access to, it is the iPhone. And much like Angelina Jolie has her "favored" magazines / reporters, it doesn't take a huge leap to realize that a select group of tech columnists were "awarded" with an early look at the iPhone (likely hand-picked by Steve Jobs himself). And they don't want to loose that privilege the next time a new Apple gadget comes along.
(Addendum: Let's just say I read the iPhone reviews with a few servings of salt.)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Will there ever be a world in which we can enter just our zip code into a web form, and it automatically registers what City, State and Country we are from?
With all this web 2.0 jazz, have we lost track of what is really important? ;)
The only company I've ever seen do this was Haystack. From the second I entered my zip code into their registration web form, I knew it was a company after my heart.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Pfizer is the latest corporation to fall victim to an embarassing case of data loss.
As it turns out, ComputerWorld reports, the Social Security numbers of 17,000 current and former employees of Pfizer were exposed. But what is so interesting is that the exposure happened not because of a misplaced laptop, CD or errant email, but instead, because of P2P file-sharing program installed on an employee's home laptop. The money quote: "Of that group, about 15,700 individuals actually had their data accessed and copied by an unknown number of persons on a peer-to-peer network." Amazing.
Honestly, I'm surprised this hasn't happened before (maybe it has?). P2P programs are greedy when it comes to what files you have on your computer that get shared with the network. The philosophy for these programs is: the more the better. I remember not too long ago installing a P2P program and realizing that a lot of my school papers were accessible to everyone. I quickly changed the directories that the P2P program was allowed to scan and share, but I easily could have missed this. It sounds like the employee at Pfizer did. I bet Pfizer (and many other corporations) is scrambling to figure out how to stop this from happening again.
Addendum: Apparently, Pharmalot is responsible for the scoop. And here is the original source: a letter from Pfizer to NH's Attorney General (.pdf).
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Given the main objective of my job as an Analyst is to source deals, I speak to literally more than a thousand companies a year. In some ways, this makes me and any other Analysts/Associates out there a great “front-line” barometer for the venture climate. Moreover, I'll venture that the reaction a General Partner gets from an entrepreneur will be a little rosier than the view someone like myself gets.
So when over the course of just a couple of weeks I get a reaction twice that I've gotten only once before, it gives me pause. The reaction?:
"Please don't take this the wrong way, but you are an 'Analyst.' If your firm was really interested in [MyCorp], a Partner would have contacted me. Meeting with non-Partners is just not a good use of my time." [This is verbatim.]
Is this reaction a telling commentary on the start-up friendly period we find ourselves in? Or should I just re-read Guy's VCAT and remember my place? ;)
From my perspective, there are several factors that perpetuate this mindset:
- We now have well established and easily accessible “waterholes” (i.e., the likes of TechCrunch). With one fell swoop, everyone knows about a company. The web, I would venture to say, is actually super-saturated with websites whose sole focus is to review web startups. There are literally dozens of blogs with TechCrunch-esque models. Hot consumer internet companies don't stay secrets (and uncompetitive deals) for long. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, consumer-internet VCs are increasingly bringing in EIRs to incubate web companies.
- Likewise, many companies seem to assume that once they’ve been mentioned in one of these blogs, all VC firms know of their existence. The lack of an immediate inbound call from a Managing Partners is tantamount to a lack of interest from the firm.
- It's not just with consumer internet deals. I can't tell you how many enterprise software companies I've called who tell me that they get daily calls from VCs. VCs overall are becoming more proactive when it comes to generating deal flow. This proactiveness has two flavors: either individuals in the firm becoming more proactive (including partners), or the firm adding a level of employees who are there to be proactive. Many firms have hybrids of these flavors, but it is rare to find a firm that has not adopted one stance or the other.
- Lastly, there is the same case of VCs needing to put their funds to work that I wrote about in one of my first posts, Contempt, eh?. Many of these VCs just can't afford to wait for the world to come to them when they have more money than they know what to do with. (Along these lines, really interesting discussion in the comments section of VentureBeat's post re: Ron Conway's mention of 'third-tier' VCs offering entrepreneurs a cash-bonus if they take their money worth checking out.)
But instead of thinking about an inbound call from a junior person as a waste of time, entrepreneurs should think of the call as a great opportunity to get the person's firm excited about their company. Junior people have the ear of the senior people in their firms - otherwise, they wouldn't be there. Entrepreneurs who realize this often have a powerpoint deck always updated and at hand, ready to email out or WebEx at a moment's notice. These entrepreneurs have figured out how to efficiently and effectively play the game. And when they are ready to go out and raise a round, my guess is that they'll have a long list of VCs (junior and senior) waiting to hear from them.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The announcement that Facebook would now be offering a Marketplace with Craigslist-esque classifieds sounded like a good idea to me, but I imagined that user adoption would only drip in little by little.
When I saw my facebook newsfeed this morning, I realized how wrong I was. Users aren't going to start using the Marketplace in drips and drops. They are going to flock to it in waves. This is because Facebook timed the launch perfectly with the annual rite of passage of Seniors trying to unload all the cheap stuff they acquired over the course of their college careers to open armed underclassmen. Now instead of parsing through hundreds of text emails on list-serves, college students will be able to easily scan hundreds of offerings on their facebook page.
So what becomes of the normal barrier of getting users over the hump of using a new feature? No problem here when timed around an accelerating event. Another smart move by the Facebook team.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
I couldn’t help but notice
While I understand what Loizos was going for, I take issue with the thesis. What does it mean for women to be “less interested than men in technology”? This reminds me of Larry Summer's explanation of why there aren't more women in the upper echelons of academia.
So regarding the lack of interest women have in technology: Is this an “innate” difference (a la Larry Summers)? Or is this something else?
Now that I am immersed in technology, I often wonder why I or any of my really smart female friends never took a computer science class while we were in high school. At Stuyvesant, a math and science magnet high school, there were plenty of computer science options, including an advance placement computer class. And we were bonafide math nerds. We took extra electives in math, were enrolled in BC Calculus (that's Honors Advanced Placement, thank you very much. heh). Heck - When I was in middle school, I even took a summer class on BASIC and would spend hours writing dinky little programs on the Apple IIGS I had because I thought it was fun. What happened? Where do women with the right orientation for computer science veer off path? Is it as simple as saying that we're "less interested"?
Of course not.
Preferences are shaped not only by the biomolecular make up of our bodies but by our societal context. It's a silly example, but if you compare the taste buds of someone in Vietnam who likes to snack on fried grasshoppers with the taste buds of someone from Manhattan, you're not going to find a significant difference. Yet the person living in Manhattan would not choose the grasshoppers over a slice of pizza any day of the week. "From a young age, Manhattanites show less interest in fried grasshoppers."
Is context everything for preferences? No. There are real, physiological differences between male and female brains. But there is also an element of performance to gender (Judith Butler, anyone?). If my friends or I had had some close female friends in AP Computer Science, we would have been far more likely to have considered the class. Instead, we walked by the Computer Science lab every day without giving it a second thought.
I'm not complaining, but I hope it won't be the same scenario for women at Stuyvesant now and that it won't be too long before an Intro to Computer Science class is required curriculum along with Biology, Chemistry, Math and Physics. I think this will be an important step.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
We all know Kathy Sierra’s story well, and it sucks. If that same story repeats itself again, ever, then that is a major and embarrassing failing in our online social fabric.
However, it is interesting to note that this occurrence (or "trend") might more fittingly be described as a second wave in a trend that first happened in the early 1990's - in chat rooms. In the article, Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers, the Washington Post cited a couple studies to argue that a trend described as an “exodus of women” which first occurred in chat rooms (because of sexually explicit and malicious messages targeted at female chat room participants), is reappearing in the blogosphere.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Just noticed MBA Polymers, an interesting plastics recycling company, just got funded.
Plastics recycling is clearly something that needs to be done in greater quantities in the United States. Although the business arguments made in support of companies like MBA Polymers will always be along the lines of the economic benefits (i.e., as crude oil prices continue to rise, the cost of producing plastics will be subject to volatility and price increases), this video from Good Magazine reminded me of the other argument.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
I am always on the look out for new events in New York City targeted at enabling entrepreneurs, and had the good fortune of meeting Andrea Madho at a recent Red Herring event. If you ever see her at an event, be sure to flag her down. Not only is she great and had me laughing the entire event, but she is one well connected lady in the nyc entrepreneur scene. If you're a new entrepreneur in nyc, I'll guarantee that she is worth your time.
When she informed me of an upcoming event by a division of her company (Gigapixel Creative), The Hatchery, it sounded too fun to resist. The event, appropriately named "The Gauntlet" is all about having entrepreneurs pitch their early stage companies to a panel of judges.
Hosted at a Columbia Business School class room, the Gauntel had its inaugural meeting last Thursday, and featured 5 entrepreneurs with companies in different stages of development (one was the proverbial slide deck, another had already landed a Fortune 2000 client). I would tell you more, but the audience had to sign NDAs, so I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say or not. ;) The 7 panelists, however, I think are fair game. And much like the entrepreneurs, they varied in range:
There was Amy Goldsmith, an Intellectual property attorney, who was sure to pepper the entrepreneurs with patent questions.
There was "dot com guru" Sanford Dickert, who faithfully brought the audience (and entrepreneurs) up to speed on Web 2.0 happenings.
There was Andrea Madho, who graciously lobbed softballs in between incisive questions.
And of course, a handful of VC / Angel types, who could be counted on for asking the hard questions, one after another after another after another.
If any of this sounds like a good time to you (and the NDA made you curious...), come to the next Gauntlet on June 6th. It is going to be an All Women Panel (how great is that idea?) and I'll be throwing my hat in the ring as a panelist.
Monday, April 23, 2007
What a great weekend. Finally coming back to the home base to do a belated SaaScon recap. I'll admit this is just scratching the surface, but below are some tidbits:
- Jim Steele, President of Salesforce, talked about sf.com’s IdeaExchange, which I had never heard of before and was really impressed by. IdeaExchange is Salesforce’s community driven product feedback and development site that leverages a Digg-like voting system. Users are able to post feedback on Salesforce products, and other users can then vote on that feedback to push it to the front of the queue. Salesforce launched the IdeaExchange website in October 2006.
- SuccessFactors indicated that they will be figuring out a way to package and sell their customer’s metadata. I was definitely excited to hear this. Ironically, in a previous post “Future of SaaS: don’t forget the data!”, I commented on how interesting SuccessFactors’ metadata would be if it was readily available. Sounds like soon we’ll be able to take a look. (For more on this topic, check out David Anderson’s blog post, “The SaaS Goldmine in Supply Chain Software.” Turns out Taleo is already doing this.)
- Probably the most thought provoking presentation of the day was by Jeffrey Nick, SVP and CTO of EMC. In his presentation, The Next Inflection Point for SaaS, he described his theory of a future world in which application architecture is transformed from tightly-coupled coding (the application with the data) to instead a loosely-coupled composition. Thanks to web services and SOA architecture, this will enable a world in which companies can more effectively achieve their Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) goals. If you’re interested in learning more, email me or comment on this post and I can send you his presentation.
- A metric quoted a few times during the day: According to Gartner, by 2011, 25% of new business software purchases will be SaaS.
- SaaS is often thought of as of something only sold to SMBs. However, on demand companies such as Workday plan to take advantage of legacy software maintenance renewals to go into mid-tier and Fortune 500 companies and bring their new solution, with a subscription fee that costs as much as the maintenance stream the company had been paying.
- That SaaS leverages consumer internet concepts to produce innovative business web solutions was a theme that came up repeatedly. A few fun facts that you may already know:
- Steve Lucas, VP On Demand Software and Services for Business Objects, admitted that his inspiration behind BO’s on demand initiative was Flickr
- Marc Benioff of Salesforce has been very influenced by Consumer Internet.
- Salesforce’s AppSpace moniker has MySpace to thank.
- Apparently, Benioff wanted to call AppExchange “iExchange” (influence here is iTunes). Guess he lost that fight. But no wonder AppExchange’s web page has a huge banner proudly screaming Forbes’ quote describing AppExchange as “The iTunes of Business Software.”
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Going a little off topic this morning, err afternoon, but came across the shocking news (pdf) that abstinence education (Four Title V Section 510) resulted in --wait for it -- absolutely no change in sexual behavior by teens. The study was conducted by the Mathematica Policy Research Inc.. Slate reports it was a government initiated study. Here is the first paragraph of the "Impacts on Behavior" summary:
Findings indicate that youth in the program group were no more likely than control group youth to have abstained from sex and, among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age. Contrary to concerns raised by some critics of the Title V, Section 510 abstinence funding, however, program group youth were no more likely to have engaged in unprotected sex than control group youth.
Here, by the way, is a counter-article from a woman who helped design the abstinence curriculum for one program, if you want to see the other perspective on the study: "Don't Believe the Headlines" from EducationNews.org.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
At the SaaSCon, I ended up sharing a coffee with a woman who worked in PR (alas - lost her business card). During the conversation, she mentioned that she was trying to find "Green" PR slants for the software companies she represents, i.e., pledging to go carbon neutral much like salesforce.com did, or emphasizing an environment-friendly aspect to the business.
I found this interesting because just the other day I received a nice email from Joe Steuter of JonesPR. In his email, he brought to my attention some stats LiveOffice has published on the environmental benefits of keeping electronic archives instead of making paper copies, and also a video LiveOffice posted on YouTube. I don't know for sure, but I'm going to take a wild guess that Joe is doing PR for LiveOffice.
It is getting pretty clear that the Green PR route is going to be a common occurrence. It will be interesting to see how this route plays out. Will there be more people leveraging a positive externality the company inherently has which helps the environment (as is the case for LiveOffice - I bet their growth driver is less concern for the environment and more concern for compliance) or is there going to be more examples of companies going out of their way to help the environment (Walmart or Salesforce)? [Of course, with the latter example you might argue that the intention is just to benefit from the good PR... but let's not be that cynical. ;) And even if it is true, the means justify the end in that case, I think.]
On the other hand, there is a real disconnect between just having the former without the latter. I don't think companies should espouse the environmental benefits of their products without walking the walk. Do you?
Here are LiveOffice's stats and video:
View (and link to) the LiveOffice Earth Day video:
Here are some stats you might find interesting:
- The Radicati Group (www.radicati.com) estimates that approximately 541 million workers worldwide rely on email communications to conduct business, and each worker sends and receives, on average, 133 messages per day.
- According to calculations by LiveOffice, if each of these 541 million workers prints and stores as few as 5 emails per day – it would consume more than 6,000 trees a day. That adds up to more than 2 million trees every year.
- According to LiveOffice, some companies use 20-foot shipping containers to store hard copy documents; each of these containers can hold 3.5 million printed emails stored in cardboard boxes. But that means more than 300 trees were used in printing all those emails.
- According to the National Academy of Science, every year 20 million hectares of rainforest — an area the size of the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey combined — are cut down, releasing millions of tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. At this rate, most of the world’s tropical forests will be lost by this century’s end, as will important species, natural resources, local livelihoods and the opportunity to slow climate change.
- The good news is that tree conservation, through methods such as digital email archiving, can have a significant and positive impact on the environment as a whole. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “over the course of 50 years, a single tree can generate $31,250 of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycle $37,500 worth of water, and control $31,500 worth of soil erosion.”
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Just finished up a two day stay in Santa Clara for the SaaScon conference. Although there were definitely the standard mix of boring infomercial speeches by some of the event sponsors, overall I found the event to be very stimulating and I’ll blog a few of the highlight insights later. For now, I’ll mention one particular takeaway I had at the conference which I think will be important for SaaS adoption.
To take a step back, a theme that came up again and again during the conference is that, because of SaaS, all the complexity, risks and costs of software implementations, delivery and ongoing maintenance have been shifted away from the customer to the provider. This includes what we normally think of when we think of SaaS – the application architecture, etc., but also the delivery architecture. Combined, this includes everything from having an intuitive application logic to fast performance (improved by the likes of Akamai if necessary) to seamless updates. Whereas back in the day, it was the customer’s headache to deal with these things, SaaS makes it the ISV’s headache.
Steve Lucas, VP of On Demand Software and Services for Business Objects, explained it best when he recounted the sleepless nights he has had since launching CrystalReports.com: “You take on ALL the pain of supporting your customers that your customers used to have to go through.” Stressful for the ISV but great for the customer!
From the company’s perspective, if you’re the person making the vendor selection decision, this is extremely important. And to explain why, I’ll take a tip from Kathy Sierra (whose discontinued blog I am still mourning) and hope that a picture explains everything I ever learned in management consulting:
What does this mean? What SaaS provides to the company, specifically to the IT staff of a customer, is the emotional increased peace of mind. The CRM system goes down? Call Salesforce. The recruiting system is not working? Call Taleo. Of course the business case for SaaS still must derive from the rational – i.e., cost, SLA's, etc.. But when you are the decision maker, and (I’ll caveat), have already had an implementation with a SaaS vendor that has saved you many sleepless nights, that emotional element of the decision making process I think will be too much to ignore. And I don't think that's a big caveat. Do you? Perhaps a more interesting question is -- how does the political factor in?
Monday, April 9, 2007
I've been asked to be a blogger for Outside the Valley. OtV was formed to highlight start ups outside Silicon Valley, and also to be a resource for entrepreneurs trying to navigate the non-Valley waters. Take a look!
My first post, "The Venture Process When You’re Outside the Valley (Part I)" is up. Here's the beginning:
Given that this blog is called Outside the Valley, it is worth chatting about the venture process when you’re, well, outside the valley. So let’s tackle it: If you’re not in the valley, what role does location play when a VC is evaluating your company as a potential investment?
First of all, it goes without saying that if you are signing up users or selling product faster than you can twitter a sales update (the “train leaving the station”), a General Partner won’t think twice before hopping onto a plane. Sure, the Skype team was based in Luxembourg. But what do you think we did when we saw Skype’s user numbers?
Geography becomes more of a factor the other 98% of the time: when you are less the train leaving the station and more the train still boarding passengers and luggage. And this all has to do with a VC’s favorite word: Risk.
You can think of this in terms of 3 stages:
1. Getting your foot in the door
2. Securing an investment
3. Ongoing support
Because this post will be too long if I tackle it all at once, I’ll address the first stage in this post, and the next two stages in the second post.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Facebook has recently been criticized as having terrible clickthrough rates.
Perhaps their ad approval screener has taken on the "sex sells" approach?
I recently checked in on my facebook profile and was faced with the "Harvard Flyer" at left. Yes, "sex kits" did catch my eye.
When you click on the ad, it brings you to a site with the headline: "Be Fun, Be Safe, Give a mad bj." Eeek.
So is this a "Whoops" or a "$$$"?
Considering the recent trends on facebook of both younger and older crowds joining (my family is the perfect illustration of this: I have a 12 year old brother whose friends are now flocking to facebook, and my Mom has recently joined.), I can't imagine this is good. And I sure hope my mom doesn't notice this one....
Saturday, March 3, 2007
While an idea Nate had been brewing on for over year, this post is in response to an intense NextNY discussion over how to foster a better environment in NYC for web start ups. If you’re interested, you can read the original discussion here, and a follow-up discussion here.
The central tenet behind cafeBricolage is to create a physical space that creates a cultural focal point for NYC entrepreneurship. At cafeBricolage, creative people can convene, exchange ideas, and gain support from like-minded individuals. The hope is that cafeBricolage could become self-sustaining thanks to revenues for hosting events, renting out space to new start-ups, perhaps having a café, etc..
I don't have the best idea of what it is like to be an entrepreneur in NYC, but I get the sense that it can be a little isolating. People on NextNY gush about the need for a better sense of community amongst NYC technology entrepreneurs, one that entrepreneurs in SF, for example, can take for granted.
One thing I find interesting about the project is that, at least from my vantage point, it seems that the grassroots support for cafeBricolage is far and away coming from youngin entrepreneurs. This might just be a symptom of the NextNY audience (the "next generation of digital movers and shakers"), but I think it more has to do with the current breed of entrepreneurs (thanks in part to web 2.0 themes).
Regardless, it's great to see young entrepreneurs working towards defining NYC's future technology culture.
Friday, February 9, 2007
I just received some news that made me giddy. Drew Faust, currently dean of Radcliffe and feminist scholar, is likely to be named the first female President of Harvard!
I am thrilled. In my undergraduate involvement with the Radcliffe Union of Students (formerly the student union of Radcliffe, but after the merger of Radcliffe and Harvard, became more a women's / feminist group that tried to encourage dialogue around women's issues at Harvard - of which there were many), I had the opportunity to speak with Dean Faust on several occasions and was always impressed by the way she was thinking about issues on campus.
It's about damn time that we have a female president too. Outsiders might be surprised to know that the legacy of Harvard being an all-male school for hundreds of years has created a true bias against female undergraduates.
This is most salient when it comes to Harvard's real-estate and endowment rich male-only "finals clubs" -- the Harvard version of Princeton's eating clubs. Oh boy could I go into a long post about that, and maybe I will one day...
But it is also apparent in the myriad of student organizations at Harvard. Take a simple example: A capella clubs. The men's a capella club at Harvard (let's take the Dins, for examples) has a long history at Harvard and thus a large endowment. Every summer they go on a huge (expensive) international trip to beautiful locations for singing engagements. Their poorer female counterpart, the Tonics, however don't have the same history i.e., endowment. As a result, they might do a small tour in the Northeast, but nothing in comparison to their rich male counterpart.
I could give dozens of other examples (don't get me started about the rugby team! The men's team was founded 100 years before the women's team, so the women's team is forever the poor, car-pooling cousin of our richer coach-bus male counterparts.)
These might sound like small insignificant trivialities, but when the discrepancy between women and men's organizations is almost an institutional truth, it is all too obvious that there is still a long way to go at Harvard towards gender equality.
Here is the NYTimes article.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Some good discussions happening on the Feminista front this week. I love Alan Shimel’s blog post re: booth babes at the RSA conference. I didn’t go to the RSA conference, but my jaw dropped when I heard that they still have that! Sounds like RSA marketing is trying to be some bad combo between Nascar, Vegas, and a Dungeons and Dragons convention.
But the real feminista front has been in a world far far away from technology conferences: In the past couple of weeks both Sandra Day O’Connor (retired from Supreme Court) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (currently only woman on Supreme Court) gave interviews that have tickled the ears of feminists (and, as Dahlia Lithwick notes, parodists) – O’Connor shed a little more light on her "choice" to retire and her regret that she was not replaced by another woman, Ginsburg discussed her loneliness and isolation in the Supreme Court as the only woman.
You can read the interview Ginsburg gave to USA Today here, and O’Connor’s interview with Newsweek here. You can also ready a great article by Dahlia Lithwick of Slate, “The female justices begin to reflect on feminism.” (By the way: O’Connor’s interview occurs in an edition of Newsweek that features Paris Hilton and Britney Spears on the cover with the headline “The Girls Gone Wild Effect”. Quite fitting, eh?)
I’m both heartened and awed that they, particularly Ginsburg, are talking out. In general, it is (unfortunately) atypical for women in leadership positions to draw attention to their own gender. But for Ginsburg, I find it especially significant because she is currently a Supreme Court Justice. While O’Connor is trying to continue her career outside of the Supreme Court, Ginsburg will have to deal with any potential backlash while she is still a Supreme Court Justice. The guts necessary for this public moment of what seems like plain ole honestly is apparent if we contrast it with other women in high leadership positions.
Last month for example, I referenced a NYTimes article, “How Suite It Isn’t: A Dearth of Female Bosses.” One salient point mentioned in the article that I did not broach was that the vast majority of the Fortune 500 female chief executives who were contacted for the article “did not want to participate in an article about female C.E.O.’s.” Instead, they preferred to be “acknowledged for their accomplishments, rather than for being women.”
While I can understand where they are coming from –if being a successful woman leader is tantamount in many ways to that woman’s overcoming her “otherness”, calling attention to that “otherness” would be counterproductive– I personally find this mindset itself counterproductive. (In case you couldn’t tell!) If we don't discuss, bring attention, and argue about these points, then the status quo can be accepted and perpetuated all too easily.
One might speculate that it is precisely for this reason that O’Connor and Ginsburg are speaking out. What message are we sending to women entering law school or aspiring to be clerks for the Supreme Court when having a woman on the Supreme Court in in the process of being token-ized, and the best Bush could do in his effort nominate a woman to replace O’Connor was to nominate someone who fit a/[his?] comfortable stereotype of a non-threatening-thank-you-card-writing-“comforter”? I'll echo Lithwick's "Shwaaaa?" with my own "Bleh!!" here.
By the same token, what message are we sending when women working at technology companies (or "checking out" technology companies!) have to see booth babes in skimpy outfits peddling their bodies as a means to peddling the technology company's wares?
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I just came across this post, "ConEd Customer's Personal Info Highly Vulnerable To Online Theft" from The Consumerist warning that ConEd's online account system can be cracked by running a simple "brute-force" program that basically tries every single numeric permutation of the ConEd account numbers (which is all that is needed to access an individual's account). As the Consumerist explains, once you are in a person's account, you have access to a bevy of valuable personal information. Not too good.
As a ConEd customer who pays via their automated online billing system, that definitely raised an internal alarm. And then, I'll admit, a sigh of relief. And so what follows is a plug for a recent Bessemer portfolio company, Lifelock. (Connecting the dots for full disclosure: I am employed by Bessemer, and therefore have invested interest in Lifelock.)
Lifelock provides what they call "Identify Theft Prevention." Basically, they proactively monitor unauthorized uses of your credit information. So if someone tries to use your social security number to take out a car loan, you get a phone call asking to approve that request, therefore enabling you to proactively thwart any unauthorized requests. As an added bonus, Lifelock also removes your name from pre-approved credit card lists (goodbye, CapitalOne!) and other junk mail lists.
I'll admit that when I first heard of Lifelock, it seemed to me that only the most risk averse of people would pay the ~$100/yr fee for this kind of protection. That was until I got a bill from Bank of America for something like $135. I didn't realize it, but I had already been paying BoA to protect my identity for the past year! Indignant for being charged for something I thought I had canceled a long time ago (I had signed up for one of those 30-day trials), I canceled the BoA service. But this suddenly left me feeling oddly exposed. I don't think BoA caught anything amiss, but how stupid would I feel if I canceled the service and then found myself sans identity!? This was all the impetus I needed to run to Lifelock's website and sign myself up for the 1 year contract. I'm very glad I did.
I'm not sure whether someone (or some people!) found the hole in ConEd's system already and has created a nice little database which includes my personal information, but I definitely feel some peace of mind knowing that I have some protection here. If you are in ConEd's system, you might want to consider doing the same. Because it is time we all realize exactly what I realized when I canceled my BoA service: our identities are exposed. And we need to be proactive to protect ourselves.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I made a very very quick run through the Forbes Midas List, curious about the demographics. Below is a quick tally -- mind you, my approximation of race and gender are judged purely from the pictures and names. If someone looked Asian to me, I marked them as such without wikipedia-ing them to make sure I was correct. It is lazy of me, but my goal here is to be only directionally correct (not exactly right). Here are the approximate demographics:
When I did this run-through, something caught my eye: In 2007, 4 out of the 5 female VCs who were featured in the list invest solely in Life Sciences. My curiosity piqued, I did another quick run-through to see how the demographics shook down when I separated the list by people who invest in Technology (including Healthcare) vs. people who invest purely in Life Sciences.
Again, I'm not writing a statistical thesis here and made a very very crass approximation: when people invest both in Life Sciences and Technology companies (e.g., Thomas Ng, Parag Saxena, Jeffrey Drazan, and Scott Bonham) I decided to count them only as half a point. If I wanted to be more accurate, I would have looked at each of their portfolios and used the ratio of Technology:Life Sciences investments that person made. But again, I am not going for exactly right. Given that caveat, here are the results:
Sunday, January 21, 2007
For my job, I have quite the commute. Our office is in
Thankfully, my firm participates in the TransitChek program. This allows you to set aside up to $105 of pre-tax income for public transportation. Until recently, TransitCheks were literally checks. They had a face value, and you would turn them into a teller (as you might expect, you couldn’t use them online).
Because my monthly commute costs more than the maximum $105 pre-tax allocation, what I usually did was buy a monthly pass online to save up my TransitCheks, and then the next month use the Cheks I had accumulated to buy the full monthly pass. A little bit of a pain, but hey, it was relatively simple and worked.
When our office manager informed us that we would be switching to a prepaid Visa Card TransitChek, I was thrilled. In my mind, I automatically assumed that we would be given a single Visa TransitChek that would accumulate value every month. I could still do my every-other-month routine, but I would be able to buy my monthly pass online, and get the small discount. Plus, no more having to keep track of old-fashioned Cheks!
My mistake: I unconsciously assumed that the program would be intuitively designed with the commuter’s needs at the center. How wrong I was.
The new credit card version of the TransitChek is, in a word, frustrating. It feels like the program took one step forward and three steps back. You are now given a new credit card every month. The card has the “Initial Value” imprinted on the face, but once you use the card, you have to keep track of the card value yourself – there is no way to just scan the card (much like a MetroCard) to see its value.
But here is the most annoying thing I’ve encountered to date: you can’t combine one month’s worth of a card with another month because you are not allowed to use two credit cards in one transaction. So you can’t put $105 on one TransitChek card, and the remainder on another. PLUS, you can’t put $105 on your TransitChek card, and then pay the remainder with your credit card. You have to pay for the remainder in cash. So to buy my monthly pass, I now have to take out $80 from the bank every time.
OK -- I'll stop ranting (but trust me, I could go on...). In sum, the whole system just smacks of thoughtlessness. I can’t help but think that whoever designed the program did not put a single hour of primary market research in to understand commuters’ routines and needs. If they did, they would have quickly realized that the redesign would sorely inconvenience anyone whose monthly travel is greater than $105. Instead, the system design seems to be entirely driven by what is easiest (and cheapest) for the TransitChek program’s administrative staff.
More than 10 years ago, I remember my Dad using the same TransitCheks that we used until just a couple of months ago. Is it going to take another 10 years before the MTA updates their commuter-hostile system?
Does anyone else feel the same way? Any quick fixes?
1/22 UPDATE: Thanks to the brilliant comments of a few readers, all critical problems have been solved. It is possible to transfer money from one TransitChek card to another on the TransitChek website, and even add post-tax money from your credit card to a TransitChek card. I spread the news to my colleagues and received emails such as "Hallelujah!" and "This is the best thing that I have ever heard. Thank you, thank you!" I am forever in debt to Adam and Mark for my new found popularity. ;)
I still contend that it is silly to give us a new card every month (and apparently very cool startup WageWorks has a system that just gives you one card) -- just an admintrative short-cut take by TransitChek. But I am very thankful for the work around!
Monday, January 15, 2007
I just noticed the remarkable story of Zhang Yin in the NYTimes. Zhang is among the richest women in the world with a personal wealth estimated at $1.5B. An incredible self-made woman, she created this wealth basically by recycling paper.
Her company, Nine Dragons Paper, takes discarded paper materials from the US, ships it to China, where it is then recycled into new corrugated cardboard. The corrugated cardboard is subsequently fashioned into boxes and sold. (And later likely shipped back to the States.)
According to the article, Nine Dragons Paper, has a current market value of $5B, making it China's largest papermaker. But just five years ago, Ms. Zhang and her husband were begging US garbage dumps for their scrap paper! That's a nice CAGR.
The choice quote: “I remember what a man in the business told me back then,” Ms. Zhang said. “He said, ‘Wastepaper is like a forest. Paper recycles itself, generation after generation.’ ”
Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.
Addendum: In my impetuousness to post Ms. Zhang's story, I didn't stop to think why I jumped on the story. Zhang's story is one of entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship no less, and globalization. But it is also a double-bottom-line clean tech story. God knows how many tons of waste paper Zhang's Nine Dragons Paper removed from our nation's dumps. My mind can't but help drift to thoughts of plastic jugs, discarded carpets, old electronics, trashed cars. How long will it be for an analogous plastics recycler to make the same inroads?
Saturday, January 13, 2007
A self-admitted loyal Gawker reader, part of my daily routine is to check out both Gawker and one of Gawker's blog properties, Valleywag. As I was catching up on my backlog of posts, I couldn't help but notice a post that made me squirm in my seat -- VC's spambot targets random sites -- and, I'll admit, giggle.
It looks like someone over at OpenView Venture Partners made an overture to Valleywag, possibly not realizing that Valleywag is part of Gawker. Unfortunately, that overture ended up in the blogosphere. Valleywag posts the email and writes:
"Boston's OpenView Venture Partners must either enjoy abuse, or be so desperate to catch the web boom that they're reduced to spamming any site with any audience that registers in Alexa."
Ouch. and yet. I can't help but shake my head. The cat is outta the bag! It's true that once you land in the Alexa 5000 club, you can expect a lot more inbound interest from proactive VCs. I am going to guess that OpenView does have a software program that alerts them every time a company smashes that ceiling, or at least a diligent someone who combs the Alexa 5000 list every week.
VC Ratings has a little write-up of the event here. And as they rightly point out, I guess all press is good press!
Addendum: Just came across this post from Nick Wilson's personal blog, Communicontent.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Since 2nd grade science class we've all been aware, at least abstractly, of the footprint we each leave on Earth. Whether it is greenhouse gases or garbage in landfills. But with so many conflicting messages out there ("oh it is just el nino /the cyclical pattern" vs. An Inconvenient Truth), most of us have not felt compelled to do much (if anything) to reduce that footprint. After closing the books on an alarmingly balmy, record-breaking December (e.g., first snow-less December on record since 1877, record breaking 10.6 million sq mile hole in our Antarctic ozone) and a flurry of new articles documenting accelerating change, I am actually starting to get scared. Scared enough that I was impassioned this weekend to resolve to reduce my footprint.
For me, the straw that broke the camel's back was this article published by the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Dec 11th, which I came across thanks to Paul Kedrosky's blog, Infectious Greed. In it, he quotes an article from the New York Observer which I too will quote a part of here:
This really boggles my mind. I've seen pictures of retreating glaciers (and actually saw several in South America), but no ice in the Arctic Ocean?? [Drowning polar bears???] Along these lines, the NYTimes reported just recently that a 41 sq mile giant ice mass broke free of Canada in the Arctic 16 months ago. It seems like every day there is a new article on how climate change is accelerating.
It is easy to take comfort in knowing other people are working on this problem, and I'll admit we can all take comfort knowing there are really smart entrepreneurs working on clean technologies encouraged by a high rate of change, but the climate change is accelerating right now. So as we wait for technologies to catch up, I'll be trying to do my part to take the extra steps to reduce my global footprint.