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Post Spotlight: March 15, 2007

Posted on March 15, 2007
Filed Under VC, Technology, Web 2.0, Baseball | Leave a Comment

Slacker Music Player: Is it the iPod killer?

Heard about a new music service called Slacker the other day. This is a music service I can get into. Basically, the service works like or Pandora but it is not only a web based service. They also have devices that are satellite fed which allow for a portable version of “your station.” You customize your station by using the “love it” and “ban it” features (much like Pandora’s thumbs up and thumbs down approach). As you put more input into Slacker it will keep looking for music you might like based on what you’ve told it (it doesn’t not analyze the music itself like Pandora though). From VentureBeat:

Slacker is so named because it is designed for the estimated 70 percent of people who like music, but who can’t be bothered to constantly update their playlists.

I have to believe that stat is close to true. I love music but I despise scrolling through my giant list of music on iTunes and my iPod for something I want to listen to. More often than not I leave both on shuffle but this does not help me find new music of course. For more detail on Slaker check out the VentureBeat post.

Side note: If XM/Sirius start to offer this type of service Slacker will have a tough time competing.

Failing Cheap

Josh Kopelman put out another great post recently. This time he tackled the difference between the funding cycles of companies “this time around” versus back in the 1999 - 2000 time frame. I won’t be able to do this post justice in just one paragraph so please go read it. Josh made some nice graphs as well which are worth the trip to his site alone.

Bill James is Smart

Chad Finn has a nice analysis of Bill James’ predictions for the 2007 Red Sox and he starts off the piece with how right James was last year about Youkilis’ performance. It’s eerie.

VC Performance by Quartile and Vintage Year

Paul Kedrosky has a quick analysis and nice graph of VC performance data by quartile and vintage year. I especially like this post since the data comes from my prior employer Cambridge Associates. I worked on the team that was responsible for, among a lot of other things, the VC and PE performance data and benchmarks. Nice work guys!

The Funded

I caught a VentureBeat post about a new site called simply “The Funded” the other day. The basic gist of the site is that it lets its’ members rate VC firms and these ratings are then made public on the site. However, not just anyone can become a member. VentureBeat explains:

… you can’t be a member if you are partner or an agent of a firm. Also, you can only become a member if you are invited by another member or somehow convince TheFunded that you should be a member.

Looks like they have some decent controls in place but I would like to see, as would VentureBeat, some sort of disclosure as to whether or not the entrepreneur making the comments or adding the ratings was rejected by the VC firm(s) in question. This is hard to do of course since most rejections are oral and, to make matters worse, are usually cryptic (the old I didn’t say no specifically in case I want to invest down the road issue). There aren’t a ton of reviews on The Funded now but over time I figure there will be more contributors. In any case it is a really great idea and could be very useful to entrepreneurs.

Fantasy Baseball 2.0: Play Ball!

Posted on March 13, 2007
Filed Under Sports | 2 Comments

I received a note from Adam Kane the other day suggesting that we get a fantasy baseball league together for techies, entrepreneurs, web workers, etc. I.E. the TECH cocktail crowd. Of course I loved the idea and Adam went ahead and set up a league via Yahoo! sports called Play Ball 2.0 (beta). Gotta love the name!

If you want in on this league please shoot me a note or comment on this post and I’ll make sure to let Adam “The Commish” Kane know so he can send you an invite.

Quick FAQ

Is there money involved?

Possibly. If we do decide to put any money down be assured that it’ll be low stakes and that the winner will be required to take the winnings and put them toward a Kiva loan.

Is the draft live?

Yes, but you can rank your players so they will auto select if you can’t make the draft.

When is the draft?

Saturday, March 31 at 12:30pm central time. This can be changed to fit everyone’s needs as well so don’t let this time discourage you from joining the league.

What are the Rules/Settings?

They are as follows (and are negotiable):

League URL:
Season Type: Full
Draft Type: Live Draft
Draft Time: Sat Mar 31 12:30pm CDT [ Add to My Calendar ]
Max Teams: 12
Scoring Type: Head-to-Head
Player Universe: All baseball
Max Moves: No maximum
Max Trades: No maximum
Trade Reject Time: 2
Trade End Date: August 12, 2007
Waiver Time: 2 days
Can’t Cut List Provider: Yahoo! Sports
Trade Review: League Votes
Post Draft Players: Follow Waiver Rules
Min Innings Pitched: 7
Weekly Deadline: Daily - Tomorrow
Start Scoring on: Week 1
Roster Positions: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, DL
Stat Categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP

C’mon - you know you want in. It’s going to be a killer season and I’m sure the fantasy league will add to the excitement. Plus, it’s on the web and we all love the web.

Web 2.0 Expo: Early Bird Ends Today

Posted on March 12, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0 | 2 Comments

Web 2.0 ExpoSince early bird registration for the Web 2.0 Expo ends today I thought I would go ahead and remind all of you that you need to check this conference out. My buddy Dave McClure is one of the co-chairs for this event and has spent the last six months lining up great speakers to make sure you get your money’s worth.

This conference is about learning how to do Web 2.0, not just hearing people talk about what it is, which is why I am a big fan. They have seven education tracks for geeks, designers, entrepreneurs and all the other types of folks that have a hand in building the next version of the Web.

The cost is always a concern so it’s good to know that there are discounts for students, educators, etc. There is even a free track for those of us who can’t afford anything but want to take part called Web2.Open. That is a nice touch!

If you are willing to break out the credit card before the day is out (Monday - the 12th that is) you can save $200. But wait, there’s more! If you use this code - webex07mk35 - you’ll get another $100 off for a total of $300 off the ticket price.

Basically, register today if you’re pretty sure you’re going to go since you’ll save big bucks.

If those reasons to attend weren’t enough for you I should note that I am pretty sure I am going to make it out for the expo and our own Don Loeb is speaking which means they’ll be some FeedBurner schwag floating around for ya. For more on the conference and the different tracks check out Dave’s blog. Hopefully I’ll see you all in San Francisco in a month!

Side note: If you’re going please drop me a line and we’ll meet-up.

Content Promotion with FeedBurner Tools

Posted on March 11, 2007
Filed Under FeedBurner, Media, Media 2.0 | 2 Comments

Large Feed IconI talk to publishers all day long about ways to allow others to promote their content but I never went ahead and set up something formal on Olson’s Observations… until now (sorry for the dramatics). I created a page today called resyndicate (see the top right hand side of the site) which gives users/readers three different ways to utilize the content from Olson’s Observations on their sites or anywhere else they choose (of course the only thing I ask for is attribution).

The three options I made available are: Headline Animator, SpringWidgets and BuzzBoost. These are all FeedBurner features that are super easy for publishers to implement and for others to use. Publishers can now even track the use of Headline Animator which makes that service more compelling.

Please check out my resyndicate page to get a feel for each of the options that are available. Why not even snag the code for any one of them and try it out on your own site. I’d love to hear any feedback you have about any or all of the resyndication techniques as well so please either e-mail me or leave comments if you feel so inclined. You can also set up a page of your own and, if you do, please post about it in the comments. I’d love to see more folks start doing this.

Is Older the Way to Go for Social Networks? A Quick Comparison of Facebook and Eons

Posted on March 8, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0, Media 2.0 | 2 Comments

Old People SignAfter reading a post on Valleywag the other day discussing Facebook’s poor advertising performance and reading about the huge financing Eons just took I began thinking a lot about this whole social network trend.

Most of the social networks out there are relying on advertising to pay the bills. While there is nothing wrong with that approach overall it does leave these companies in a lurch when the advertising either doesn’t work or they simply aren’t getting the eyeballs they need for the business to make sense. These companies remind me a lot of the portals from the first web go around for these reasons:

Of course if one of these companies can’t get eyeballs they are done from the start since the value of the company is only there if the users are. However, let’s say they have the eyeballs like Facebook does. What then? Monetization via advertising of course. Well, in Facebook’s case the ads just aren’t performing right now meaning advertisers probably aren’t placing more buys which means the business model is in a bit of trouble. Why wouldn’t the ads be performing though? Valleywag puts it best I think:

Media buyers — the agency people who book campaigns — report that the college social network is a truly terrible target. They’re mainly students, with low disposable income, of course; but, beyond that, the users appear to be too busy leaving messages for each other to show much interest in advertising.

Exactly. This target group has no extra money and they are usually coming to Facebook as a reaction if they are anything like myself and my friends. What I mean by reaction is that they get an e-mail alert that someone has added them as a friend or that someone has left them a message, etc. They react to that, head to Facebook, take action on the item, perhaps poke around for a minute and leave the site. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for looking at or acting on ads.

Like the portals before them (i.e. Yahoo!) they could diversify into other businesses that they could charge for in addition to running ads. Facebook, for example, could possibly set up a job board for entry level post college jobs and internships. They could take on MonsterTRAK for that market and, due to their large installed base of users, probably do pretty well. Not only that, having something like a job board would keep users on the site longer potentially leading to better ad performance.

This bring me to Eons. Taking such a large round of financing recently ($22mm second round) has got people talking about the social network/content site for people over 50. At first I thought the idea was a little strange but over time I have begun to see the value in Eons. If you look at Eons in comparison to Facebook you’ll see the value too.

I’ll bet that Eons has a lot of well educated users who have a decent amount of disposable income therefore Eons, in theory, should be able to sell high value ad campaigns to companies like Mercedes, BMW, and Rolex along with vacation ads, health ads, financial services ads and drug ads (drug ads = big money). These ads will most likely perform well since Eons has good content on the site that will keep users there for a little while.

Basically, Eons is the exact opposite of Facebook.

So it seems that some target groups are better than others in terms of making a social network into a business but what else can help a social network grow? One critical (and obvious) thing is the networks ability to become an indispensable part of the users life and add to the users productivity. What better way to do that than to tie into the business life of users like LinkedIn has done? Interestingly LinkedIn also probably sees more of a post college crowd (although not as old a crowd as Eons) which leaves me to wonder if, contrary to popular belief, building social networks for older people is the way to go. I think it might be.

Crazy Green Energy Idea: Part 1

Posted on March 7, 2007
Filed Under Science, Business, Social Ventures | 4 Comments

Compact FluorescentThe other day I was talking about energy and “green” stuff with some of my FeedBurner colleagues when an idea bubbled up. What if we could harness all of the energy put out by people exercising? Just think about how many gyms there are in the country and how much energy is being put out by people cycling, running, using the elliptical, etc. They could yield a lot of power. Of course we’d have to store it and then have the energy company buy it back from us for it to be worthwhile.

I see the business model, assuming this is even a viable idea and the energy produced would even add up to a decent amount (any scientists out there?), coming together in one of two ways.

Model 1: Hooking up to Existing Gyms

This model, as the title states, would involve hooking up to existing gyms and then selling the power back to the energy companies. You could set the gyms up for power storage at no cost to the gym owner and provide them with a cut of the power sales. The gym owners may even be sold on attaining a “green” label for their gym which would allow all of the profits to stay within the company although something tells me they would want a cut of the profits.

I also thought of selling and installing the equipment and then allowing the gym owner to keep all of the power profits but I don’t see this as likely. The gym owners don’t want more hassle and their competency is not storing and selling power. However, this idea could work also.

Model 2: Start the Gyms

Again, as the title states, you could start the gyms and build in the power storing architecture from day one. Of course this wouldn’t take advantage of the “install base” of existing gyms but you could expand into that arena. If the power sales were great enough you could allow free or next to free gym access so more people would use your gym. As a side benefit, this would also lower the barrier to entry of working out allowing more people to get fit. Now you’d be helping to solve both the global warming problem and the obesity problem. How’s that for a social venture?

Of course I have no idea if this is even feasible at this point but it seemed interesting. I will keep researching the science side of this and I’d love feedback from all of you guys out there on whether or not you think this is feasible and whether or not you think we’d get squeezed by the power companies. This could just be crazy enough to work (or maybe I’ll need to start laying off the Cadbury Creme Eggs).

Photo Credit: Michael Hicks on Flickr

Criteo’s AutoRoll: What Readers are Reading

Posted on March 6, 2007
Filed Under Technology, Web 2.0, Media, Media 2.0 | 4 Comments

Criteo Auto RollI was invited to try Criteo’s AutoRoll today which is still in beta. Normally I try to keep my site clear of a lot of widgets but this one was pretty compelling so I hopped into the system and put one together. The basic gist of the AutoRoll is that it will display links to the blogs my readers (i.e. you) read most so that all of you can see what the rest of your fellow readers are reading.

It reminded me a lot of MyBlogLog but the fact that it suggests other content that may be interesting to all of you made it more worth while to me. You can now find Criteo’s AutoRoll widget under the “VC Deals” section on the far right side bar. I am calling it the “Reader Roll.” As always, please let me know if this addition to the site is useful and feel free to chime in via the comments on what you think of the AutoRoll concept.

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