Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Chill Music (April 30, 2010)

Some oldies but goodies from the last couple of years. Sometimes it's good to reflect on how much good music has come out and passed through our earphones.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

@scottorn, 4/29/10 2:24 PM

scottorn (@scottorn)
4/29/10 2:24 PM
Stop the Presses! The XX live on NPR: http://n.pr/cT8mzF

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Digital Age Deep Thought

Leah Culver (@leahculver)
4/29/10 12:42 PM
Inbox zero is how we play hot potato.

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History's Importance in Tech

Steve Jobs laid the smack-down on Adobe today in a terrific essay on why Apple is not allowing Adobe onto its mobile platforms. There is a lot of "he said/she said" in this battle but the bottom line is that Apple is creating an incredible set of devices that are changing the world at record speed. Adobe wants in there, as they should, but Jobs is right in that they shouldn't have to wait for Adobe. It's a case of leverage, and right now, Apple has it so they get to dictate what happens. This is how the tech business works, it's just that it's rarely this public.

This brings me to a broader point though. The first thing Jobs does in his essay is invoke the past:

"Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times. Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products. Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint creative customers – Mac users buy around half of Adobe’s Creative Suite products – but beyond that there are few joint interests."

He's giving the reader context, showing that this isn't a snap decision and that in essence, he knows Adobe better than almost anyone, after all, he was there when it started. Jobs has played this game with Adobe and others and is reminding the reader of it.

In technology industries, it's incredible important to understand the history. I'm not sure if it's more or less important in tech (including med device & biotech), but I often here that "this time it's different." I disagree.

While a few key features can be different, the overall strategy, players and points of leverage are rarely different. Moreover, Tech compromises the most competitive industries in the world, so a small competitor who understands history will recognize the leverage points in a new platform or relationship. For me, this is one rason why tech is so interesting and it's why you need to understand the history, so you can see the leverage points too.

If you work in tech (again Med Tech counts), my advice to you is to read these two books. It will give you the backstory across Tech, and if the back story is important enough for Jobs to invoke it in his first paragrpah, it's important for all of us to understand it.

Founders at Work

From Alchemy to IPO

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Banksy's Documentary

I've been fascinated by British Graffiti Artist Banksy ever since I read Colby Buzzell's piece on him in Esquire 5 years ago. I can't reccomend Colby's article enough and if you are still interested, read this New Yorker article on him.

After reading Colby's article, I moved to London for 3 months and heard lot's of cool underground stories about Banksy and he became even more real to me. That's why I'm so excited to see the documentary he produced called Exit Through the Gift Shop. It's playing at the Embarcadero in SF, who's with me?

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Totally

debbierosenbaum (@debbierosenbaum)
4/26/10 1:55 PM
sometimes i don't feel like folding my laundry so I just restart the dryer.

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Well, They Had to Try Something...Why Not This?

The San Francisco Chronicle went to a modified pay wall. Unfortunately, my favorite sportswriter, Bruce Jenkins, appears to be blocked until 2 days after the original day his articles run. I'm glad the Chronicle is experimenting because I want it to find a way to stick around, but this a bummer because now I'm rarely going to read one of my favorite writers. 


I could always subscribe, right? An annual subscription to the Chronicle Electronic Edition costs about $100. To provide some context, I pay about $35/year for ESPN Insider access which let's me read all of ESPN's best writers. However, ESPN is pretty weak on local coverage, so I'm really paying $35 for the national writers. 

The Chronicle has chosen to bundle all of it's content together, "horizontally", instead of stripping it out into "verticals": Sports, Finance, Entertainment, Politics, Food, etc that could get purchased independently for a lower cost. The horizontal bundling strategy seems outdated because I read "Best of Breed" writers who are the definitive experts in their category. Old Newspapers could get away with the horizontal bundling strategy because they were the only game in town, but now I can pop over to Hollywood Reporter & What Would Tyler Durden Do for Entertainment news, Yahoo Finance & Infectious Greed for Finance news, and so on. 

Here's a suggestion: Cut a Revenue & Content sharing deal with ESPN so that the SF Chronicle writers I love appear on ESPN.com. ESPN already has my credit information so it's an easy upgrade path, the Chronicle takes a $X commission on every upgraded sale, and ESPN solidifies its position as best of breed in Sports content. The pie is expanded for everyone, right? 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books : The New Yorker

Terrific article that I'm reading right this minute. My ipad should be
here in a few days!

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_auletta

Whiffle Ball

I played a lot of whiffle ball from age 10 - 16 (the age when girls started talking to me). This picture by Justin Gaynor made me smile, brought back a lot of great memories and reminded me that Spring is here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm Drinking This Right Now!

Lufthansa Love

I love this letter. Put me in a great mood for the weekend. via HMG

Friday Chill Music (April 23, 2010)

It's been a big concert week at Kenny K as I went to The XX/Hot Chip show last Friday, The Avett Brothers on Saturday and Vampire Weekend on Monday. The XX & Vampire were my favorite but every band was good. Hope you like this week's mix!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More on the Freelance Whales

My favorite new band of 2010 is the Freelance Whales and they did a pretty sweet acoustic session at Daytrotter. I can't recommend this band enough. It's worth noting that this band is made up of about five 20 year olds, so they have a lot of time to grow. On the record, their voices sound a lot more polished, mostly because there are some "effects" over them.

Check them out, I hope you like them. They're coming back to San Francisco on May 18 and I plan on seeing

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Buying a House

Great post by Seth Godin on how to think about buying a house. It's one of his longer posts and he makes a lot of great points. The theme of the post is that buying a house isn't always such a great economic proposition and it can keep you from taking the chances that will lead to a better life. He sums it up here.

"I'm optimistic about the power of a house to change your finances, to provide a foundation for a family and our communities. I'm just not sure you should buy more house than you can afford merely because houses have such good marketing."


There's one thing that he doesn't address though and it's been bugging me for a while. The lending and housing bubble warped all kind of consumer behaviors and home ownership ticked up into the low 70%'s of all U.S. households, up from the historical average of the low 60%'s. Houses and increasing prices became the economic engine. Basically, everyone (or 70%+ of the population) was on the same side of the trade - long housing. So when the crash came, it was easy to push things through the Government & Fed that tried to help housing but this came at the expense of two groups 1) Savers, and 2) Non-Home Owners. 


Savers were punished with Fed mandated interest rates near 0%. It's almost impossible to live off your savings if you are an old person without eating into your principal. Policy is hurting all savers, but especially older people. However, many of these older people are homeowners so they are presumably ok with the trade-off. 


Non-Home Owners are also being hurt because 1) their tax dollars are going to subsidize low interest rates - in a round about way through Federal Bond sales & the Fed, and more importantly 2) because they still can't afford a house because prices haven't come down like they should.


I'm in both the Savers camp and in the Non-Home Owners camp so I get a double whammy here. I point all this out because maybe it's a flaw in Seth Godin's argument against buying a house. Maybe I (we) should all buy houses so we're on the same side of the trade as the rest of population and aren't subject to the double whammy caused by current policies?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

OK Cupid on Paid Dating

I'm a huge fan of the Ok Cupid Blog. For those that don't know, OK Cupid is a free dating site started by some Stanford guys. They are completely free, believing the larger the dating funnel the better. They make their money selling advertising, little virtual presents and possibly (although unconfirmed) through affiliate relationships with large, paying dating sites.

I love their site because they are the masters of parsing data and coming up with interesting conclusions. I think it's genius how they use their observations to generate PR and SEO juice (SEO = Search Engine Optimization and a higher ranking in Google which leads to more trafffic). We're in the process of figuring out how to follow their playbook for Ben's Friends right now.

Given their business model, I thought it was really intriguing that they attacked paid sites today in an article titled: Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating:

Here's a great little snippet but read the article. An even better article is the one on men dating older women. I think every startup should be taking OK Cupid's blogging approach. It's great for users and great for generating PR & Traffic.

"So, having given eHarmony the benefit of the doubt at every turn, let's look at where that leaves their site:

Yes, only 1/30th of the '20 million users' they advertise is someone you can actually talk to. That's the paradox: the more they pump up their membership totals to convince you to sign up, the worse they look.

And the ironic thing is that although they basically admit their sites are filled with chaff, pay sites have little interest in telling you who's paying and who isn't. In fact, it's better for them to show you people who haven't paid, even if it means they're wasting your time. We'll show that in the next section."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tunes

I saw the XX last night - here are a couple samples:


Crystalised

I'm seeing the Avett Brothers tonight - a couple more samples:



Great concert weekend!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Building on a Software Platform

via 37 Signals regarding changes to the Apple Deveopers License that prohibits Flash and other types of code.

"It’s hard to build a business on a platform where you feel like you cannot trust the men in power. If they can take down Adobe a few days before the launch of their flagship product, what hope do smaller players hold?


If you view the economy as the App Store, Apple can be viewed as Venezuela where the rules of commerce are constantly changed and investors start fleeing for the fear that they’re next. They may not leave today because of vested interests, but you’re scaring good people away and driving them to alternative platforms. But since the effects won’t be felt tomorrow, it doesn’t appear nearly as dangerous as it really is."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spreadsheet Love

My buddy Healy Jones of OfficeDrop wrote a terrific post about managing your startup through a spreedsheet (and not a business plan). I couldn't agree more and it's how I evaluate businesses. I find myself prompting management teams for the numbers when they want to talk about "where things are going."

Btw - Healy is writing great posts about the entrepreneurial journey. If you are in that boat or want to take the journey someday, you should subscribe to his feed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chan Ho Park

Chan Ho Park on why he blew a game via Mark Lisanti

The New Yorker on the New Baseball Season

Ben McGrath has a great preview of the baseball season in this week's New Yorker. Somehow the New Yorker's baseball coverage always seems to pinpoint the big themes of the season but frames them in a romantic, rose colored way. I highly recommend this article. There were many things I could quote but the passage below struck me as interesting because MLB is one of the few businesses that doesn't rush their best products to the consumer. Instead, the system's rules make it advantageous to make players like Stephen Strasburg, and the Giant's Bust Posey who is hitting .600 in the Minors, sit until just before mid-year. Funny system that baseball, but it's great to have it back just the same.


"The rules governing when a baseball player is first eligible to file for salary arbitration and free agency, and thereby earn what he deserves, are dependent upon his years of major-league service (six, in the case of free agency), so the decision about when a team should start the clock ticking is crucial, and complicated. Those early years in a future star’s career are often his most valuable, even if he has not yet reached his prime. If he’s good and he’s green, chances are he’s a relative bargain, and in delaying his arrival on the big stage by a few months a team can postpone for a year the inevitable attempts at poaching by, say, the Yankees. Shrewd miserliness is one of those things that sports fans can appreciate in the abstract (hey, it’s in our long-term interest, too, to hoard the talent), but it rankles all the same. We’ve bought our tickets, and we want to see the best players on the field"

Benard & Bonds

From Henry Schulman's outstanding blog about Giants baseball

"Remember how Barry Bonds used to have four lockers at Pac Bell when it opened? One day, Marvin Benard wanted to change things amid a slump and just took one of the three empty Bonds lockers. He didn't just stuff his clothes in there. Benard had a cigar-store Indian carving and moved that there, too. I asked him if Bonds was mad.

"Everybody was like, 'What are you doing? He's going to get pissed at you.'" Benard said. "Then, he had to keep his image, so he came into the clubhouse and threw his stuff around and got all mad. Then he came out and looked at me and said, 'Don't worry about it, dude. It's cool, between you and me.'"


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Marry Mary

This guy wanted to find a husband for his wife's best friend named Mary. So he started a site called Marry Mary. It's absolute genius. Thanks Bain for the forward.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Friday Chill Music (April 9, 2010)

Hope you enjoy.

My Doctor, Mark Savant, is the Best

Dr. Mark Savant, my personal physician and the co-founder of SavantMD.com, addressing the patients on AVMSurvivors.org, a patient to patient support network that is part of the broader Ben's Friends network of support sites. Dr. Savant is the best. Not only does he help people in his practice, but he's helping thousands of people online with his messages and question and answer sessions Great doctor, great guy!

Funny

debbierosenbaum (@debbierosenbaum)
4/8/10 8:42 AM
i was wrong: business school isn't the only place where the line for the women's bathroom is shorter than the men's line. IP conference too.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Test Post

trying to enable Disqus comments

TeamRankings.com Rocked the NCAA Tournament

My friend Matt Koidin runs TeamRankings.com. It's a completely algorythmic take on picking games and boy did Matt and the crew do well in the NCAA Tournament. These results are crazy. Check it out below. Congrats Matt!

"Overall, we’re very happy with the stellar performance of our betting picks during the 2010 tourney and we hope our customers were able to profit handsomely from it. We did especially well in the big games this year, going on a 13-1 run from the Elite 8 onward.
In the end, $100 unit bettors would have finished up 25.9 units, or +$2,590 by playing all of our betting predictions (126 total bets) for the 2010 NCAA tournament. That represents a 20.6% return on total risked capital of $12,600 over three weeks, or an annualized return on investment of over 350%.
For comparison, the Dow Jones has risen about 2% since the NCAA tournament began. Even given a stock market rally, betting our predictions this year would still have provided 10x the returns of the Dow — although the risk profile of sports wagering is quite a bit different!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bronte on Investing in Technology

A wonderful post on technology investing from Bronte Capital. There is so much in this, including why they are short First Solar. For new readers, Bronte Capital Blog is written by the hedge fund guy who runs the fund. He's a terrific writer, great thinker and lives in Australia so has interesting observations on US markets, policies and individual stocks.

My favorite excerpt among many:

"Technology offers value creation like few other industries. In Australia Cochlear has created enormous value and improved the world. It can literally plug a bionic ear into someone's brain-stem and get them to hear. And the stock has paid about 20X – which is better than anything in our portfolio. Many of the biggest fortunes were made in technology. But technology – and specifically technological obsolescence has thrown many a fine company to the wolves. Palm for instance is likely to go bankrupt even though the concepts it pioneered are in everyone's pocket." -- Bronte Capital

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Great Point

via Derek Sivers excellent blog, a post called A Real Person Just Like You:

"It's too overwhelming to remember that at the end of every computer is a real person, a lot like you, whose birthday was last week, who has three best friends but nobody to spoon at night, and is personally affected by what you say."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dave Eichler & Wag's Revue

My main man Dave Eichler works with me at Lighthouse Capital, but on the side he is a co-founder of Wag's Revue, an online literary magazine with a big following back East. Dave built the entire website which is no small feet considering he is a self taught developer. Recently Dave and his co-founders were profiled in the Brown University Alumni Magazine. Congrats on the redesign & publicity Dave!

Reblog: Another Way of Keeping Score

via 37Signals:

"What if you could make money, maybe not crazy numbers but still a healthy profit, selling a product that people really love? How much of a turn-on would that be to you (even if it means less profits than you’d make churning out a mediocre product)? How much would you be willing to shave off your bottom line to feel like you’re making something that genuinely makes a difference in people’s lives? How much is it worth to you to get emails from customers that tell you how much they love what you make?"

This is what we're trying to do with the Ben's Friends patient to patient support networks. Right now, we have no clue on how to generate revenue, let alone a "healthy profit." However, we generate a humongous emotional profit. It feels so good everyone involved is willing to run a financial deficit - volunteering and investing our own money to support it.

Where can you find your emotional profit? Maybe you need to spend a little money to uncover it. 

Cool Mix

The Himmelsblog told me about the new mix between Biggie and the XX. Pretty cool.

Update: They took down the downloads but you can hear some of the Biggie & The XX mixes on Hype Machine here and here.