Startup Homeruns

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I go for homeruns, not singles. I want to knock it out of the park. The problem with that is homeruns are very high risk. The chance of a homerun is significantly lower than simply getting on first base. I don’t want to stop dreaming for the homerun, but more training is in order to get there. I really should focus on getting a hit, rather than the homerun — but I’m driven to practice for the homerun, rather than just a hit.

There is a trail of dead startups behind me and a money trail that I have burned through. There are years of things I have tried building and failing. On one hand, failure does equal experience and lessons. On the other hand, it’s been an expensive education by not programming these ideas myself…

Extendy, Boughtly, ViewCues, ifluencer, Trackable Links, Sme, InSeconds, ThankYouTroops, PinkPinky, MyFavorites v1, MyFavorites v2 (haven’t given up on this yet), and there are more.

As much as I have read and heard the same thing over and over and over again in the past 12+ years, I want to say it has never really sunk in or I have just never really “got it.” That one thing is “work on a problem you have, that you want a solution for, that you are the user of.” MyFavorites is the closest to this. It is a problem I have — is it a big problem? Not necessarily. It’s something fun, entertaining, and would help me learn more about my friends (and anyone) and discover new stuff (beer, books, local plumber, etc).

I have found myself working on ideas over the years that I think can be homeruns, but they really haven’t been problems — or rather, big problems of mine. As a most-times unrealistic entrepreneur that swings for the fences, it’s my reading about the sensationalized homeruns in the press (Twitter, etc) that have skewed my attention towards working on my startup ideas that I think could be sensationalized homeruns. But it’s all fiction and theory in my mind — because typically the idea isn’t even solving a problem I have!

So I pledge to only work on a startup in the future if it’s solving a real problem I have. Hopefully the idea won’t fade out in a few months as all the others have, when I find myself wondering what the heck I’m doing. It’s a recipe for disaster when you’re making up a problem. A successful startup should lead to 5-10+ years of working on a solution for a problem, so I better have a real problem that I believe in fixing. I don’t know if that means I’ll be swinging for the homeruns anymore or not — I guess it’ll depend on the problem at hand.

Metrics of me, me, me!

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As I work on MyFavorites, I brainstormed an outline of the metrics that people consciously and subconsciously gauge in Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Foursquare. Feel free to add other services in the comments section. These are essentially how people rank themselves and others for their entire profile and their individual actions [i.e. a tweet or a check-in].

Twitter

  • # retweets on an individual tweet
  • # followers
  • # tweets
  • # replies, and simply replying (*added by @esnagel)

Facebook

  • # likes + # comments on an individual status update
  • # friends
  • # of fans (if fan page)

Tumblr

  • # likes + # reblogs on individual posts
  • # followers

Foursquare

  • # points (this week; all-time high score) + leaderboard rank this week vs friends
  • badges
  • mayoral status (# of places)
  • [comments exist on check-ins, but I don’t think I’m notified when these occur. It is my belief that users share out to Facebook and Twitter if they want comments or replies]
  • [tips occur, but the user isn’t encouraged by points to add tips — otherwise likely bad data would flow in]
  • [there lacks a feedback loop for user tips. There is “I have done this”, which increases a number next to the tip. However, the tip originator is never notified of those, and there’s a disconnect, I feel it should say “I agree!” rather than “I have done this”]
  • [photos occur at places, but the user isn’t encouraged by points to add photos — otherwise likely bad data would flow in]

MyFavorites

  • # followers
  • # favorites
  • [there needs to be a feedback loop; if I share a favorite and someone likes it. Right now this can be done via ‘me too’.]
  • [Comments by users would be good too, to clarify or discuss the favorite. Right now, this is done via a ‘reply’ which doesn’t allow discussion. User could share out to twitter/fb to start conversation]
  • [‘me too’ was created as a 1-click method for adding more favorites by users]

X startups = Y angel fundings = Z VC fundings

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Does it take 300 startups with some type of product/prototype, to result in 25 angel deals, to result in 3 VC deals?

In sales, your organization knows you need 100 companies in the tickler, to get 10 proposals out, to then get 3 sales. Or whatever the numbers are for your business. I’m curious what the averages are for this, but in terms of startups to get to angel/seed funding to get to VC funding.

I’m curious for Buffalo, NY. I keep saying we need 100 startups brewing (more than just an idea, an actual product/prototype in the market), to result in 10 angel deals, to result in 2-3 VC deals. But I think I’m way off. And as a city, we’re nowhere near that initial 100 — we really need to start ramping up and reaching out to each other, helping each get to a product/market fit, a product or prototype, or simply to get the person to move on to an alternative idea that the entrepreneur has that could have legs.

Anyone have stats on this?

MyFavorites — my latest startup

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MyFavorites Well folks, hopefully this is finally “the one”. Over 3 years of ideas and executions on various ideas (that have since been executed themselves — in an electric chair)…. have all come full circle into this. We’re not ready to show you it yet, but we’re busy hacking away on it and I’m pumped.

Go head over to the site to signup for the beta. We plan to launch publicly/beta by SXSW in March 2011, but we’ll be leaking out some beta invite codes here and there, so get on the list.

Follow us on Twitter as well.

When Does a Company Stop being a Start-Up?

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Nick questioned this after reading how Buffalo NY has a higher startup than Seattle and I thought it was a great question. He questioned whether Facebook, Craigslist or even Skype are considered start-ups (as they mentioned these companies in that article as being startups).

In my opinion, Skype and Craigslist are no longer startups, they are market leaders in their category and have ironed out their business models. Thus, Facebook could fall into that as well, but I don’t think Facebook has ironed out their business model yet — or rather maybe they have, but it hasn’t exploded yet as I someday expect (with the entire web having a Google AdSense alternative that will be Facebook AdSense ads).

Is a startup still a company without a revenue model figured out [i.e. Youtube back in the day, despite being the market leader, I would have considered them a startup still — not sustainable on their own w/o outside financing], and I also question whether the amount of employees relative to what the company will likely be eventually, pulls them down to being considered a startup still.

In my opinion, Twitter is still a startup, despite being huge and a market leader. I don’t believe they have nailed down their business model, or grown their employees anywhere near the size that they will be someday.

What about Zynga? They have a business model, they have 1200 employees [just purchased office space to get to 2000 employees], and they have some games (products) that are their lifeline. The revenues they are pulling down could sustain them as a company.

Do you think Zynga is a startup still?

Eminem’s “Recovery” is his best yet

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All,

In this album ‘Recovery’ he lets it all out. This verse sums it up:

Hit my bottom so hard I bounced twice,
This time around it’s different,
Them last 2 albums didn’t count,
Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushin’ ’em out.

I know most of you probably don’t like him. You’re probably over him. You’re probably past your rap stage in life.

Well, whatever and where ever you are in life — this is one of the most solid rap albums you’ll ever hear in your entire life.

This is the album I have waited 4 years for. Big things have happened in this man’s life and yet his last album didn’t even seem to touch on them. The man’s best friend Proof gets shot outside of a nightclub in an altercation and dies. Then the man goes on to remarry his ex-wife that he’s had so many crazy/angry songs about, I can’t recollect how man — he then goes on to breakup with her after 3 months (they divorce a second time officially 11 months later).

The man has been on a pill-poppin spree for 3 years — and put on a bunch of weight.

Read these lyrics, the guy just lays it all out in this album:

I went away I guess to open up some lanes
But there was no one who even knew what I was going through- growing pains
Hatred was flowing through my veins
On the verge of going insane
I almost made a song dissin Lil Wayne
It’s like I was jealous of him cause the attention he was gettin’
I felt horrible about myself
He was spittin and I wasn’t
Anyone who was buzzin back then coulda got it
Almost went at Kanye too

God it feels like I’m goin’ psychotic
Thank god that I didn’t do it
I would of had my ass handed to me
And I knew it
but proof wasn’t here to see me through it
I’m in the booth poppin another pill tryna talk myself into it
Are you stupid? You gon’ start dissin people for no reason?
Especially when you can’t even write a decent punchline even

You’re lying to yourself, you’re slowly dying, you’re denying
Your health is declinging with your self esteem, you’re crying out for help

Get this album. Now. It’s Eminem’s best yet.

-PoPo

IDEAs #102: Twilio ideas brainstorm: SMS, Voice, API

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If anyone is looking for some business/application ideas for using Twilio … I have had some SMS & VXML ideas in the past.

I think using SMS to send URLs to the user, so they can click and view things in their smartphone, is going to really come into play. Or calling a # in a job classified ad to hear a full description about the job & company . Ditto on calling a number on a product at a store that I’m looking at to walk me through the features.

http://www.stevepoland.com/app-startup-idea-132-parking-app-using-twilio-api/

http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-26c-job-postings-details-by-voicemail-message/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-26b-auto-details-and-photos-to-your-cell/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-42-audio-ads-network-provider/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-10-in-person-social-networking-eventbar-mingling-via-cell/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-12-e-cards-with-your-voice-and-bonus-ideas/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-17-audio-chatting-by-phone/ [a dating or chatroulette idea for the phone]
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-36-social-audio-video-recommendations/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-5-video-audio-ratings-of-transactions-businessesproductspeople/
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-71-user-gen-opinionated-videos-photos-or-text-facebook-app/

M&A/IPO = Broken ROI Model for VCs?

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Last week I was at the WNY Venture Association seminar on “Angel Investing in Western New York.” Not the sexiest market, in particular not for web technology. But some interesting tidbits came out of it — Ron Schreiber (Softbank Capital; Ingram-Micro co-founder) put some interesting nuggets out there. For VC firms, the 10-year annual return (avg) has been:

* 33%, June 2008
* 26%, January 2009
* 14%, June 2009

So why the huge discrepancy within a 1-year timeframe? Because the high returns of the late 90’s bubble drop-off the 10-year returns once 1999 kicked in.

The biggest take-away was him saying that if you’re going to be investing in start-ups, the plan should no longer be in selling the companies — that model is broken. He referenced the single-digit amount of IPO’s this year. He recommended the idea of ‘forced distributions’ as the new investing model — saying that there’s no reason why these companies can’t be funded and provide consistent returns, rather than waiting 5-10 years with your money tied up illiquid and then hoping for a return via merger/acquisition/IPO.

I’m curious what VC’s are currently thinking now, in 2009, when making their investments. Are they still investing with the idea of a merger/acquisition/IPO, or are they thinking of forced dividend returns by their portfolio companies? The number of VC firms is down, which is a reflection of the lack of returns.

Institutional investors backing these VC’s are generally looking for big returns off these high-risk investments, but given the lower VC portfolio returns now, I’d think the institutional investors would love the forced dividend returns to at least get their initial investments back. Maybe the better question is that if a VC were out raising a fund right now, would they still tout the merger/acquisition/IPO, despite the lack of those exits and the 14% 10-yr average return their industry has been providing?

Maybe Fred Wilson, Bijan Sabet, Brad Feld, or some other VCs will write a blog post with their thoughts on this.

Guest Post on TechCrunch: Twitter And Facebook Turn Everyone Into An Affiliate Marketer

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You can read it, here. Enjoy!

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/11/15/twitter-facebook-amazon-affiliate-marketing/

IDEAs #101: FourSquare API Ideas

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I haven’t looked at the API, but I see crazy potential of apps being built on-top of FourSquare. The one thing I REALLY WANT [and have for years], is, when I go to a restaurant.. I want to see what everyone that’s ever been there rates as the best dishes; then what my friends rate as the best dishes; then what I’ve had there in the past [I was at a Thai place the other day, where I’ve been a lot, but there’s 100 menu items, literally. I have no clue that last dish I had, which was AMAZING].
I detailed this idea out awhile ago — I think someone could make it happen with FourSquare: http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-76-the-greatest-menu-meals-fb-app-initially/
I’m in Buffalo, so I haven’t used FourSquare really at all, but I’d also love to see a “wall” for each bar/restaurant, where I could see everyone’s posts [within/at that bar/restaurant], or just my friend’s posts, or just my posts [w/replies of course]. It’d be another way for people to communicate and meet. If the music is way too loud, it could be said. If someone is puking in the 1st stall, it could be said. If a whif of reefer is going on, it could be said. If the blond in the red dress sitting at 7th seat at the bar is hot, it could be said.
I have some other ideas that I think could finally take off, if someone built them with FourSquare’s API…
This one is in regards to anyone at a sporting event, or concert, or happy hour, could post pics/videos from the event — and since everyone ‘checked in’ to foursquare is at same event, sending in a photo or video should be easy — something would check where you are, then it’d tag it for you without you worrying about it.
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-39-vyous-aggregated-event-photosvideos-everyones-views/
Actually, the following post is basically what FourSquare became [feb 2007 I wrote this]:
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-10-in-person-social-networking-eventbar-mingling-via-cell/
and
http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-75-where-i-hang-out-facebook-app/

I haven’t looked at the API, but I see crazy potential of apps being built on-top of FourSquare. The one thing I REALLY WANT [and have for years], is, when I go to a restaurant.. I want to see what everyone that’s ever been there rates as the best dishes; then what my friends rate as the best dishes; then what I’ve had there in the past [I was at a Thai place the other day, where I’ve been a lot, but there’s 100 menu items, literally. I have no clue that last dish I had, which was AMAZING].

I detailed this idea out awhile ago — I think someone could make it happen with FourSquare: http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-76-the-greatest-menu-meals-fb-app-initially/

I’m in Buffalo, so I haven’t used FourSquare really at all, but I’d also love to see a “wall” for each bar/restaurant, where I could see everyone’s posts [within/at that bar/restaurant], or just my friend’s posts, or just my posts [w/replies of course]. It’d be another way for people to communicate and meet. If the music is way too loud, it could be said. If someone is puking in the 1st stall, it could be said. If a whif of reefer is going on, it could be said. If the blond in the red dress sitting at 7th seat at the bar is hot, it could be said.

I have some other ideas that I think could finally take off, if someone built them with FourSquare’s API…

This one is in regards to anyone at a sporting event, or concert, or happy hour, could post pics/videos from the event — and since everyone ‘checked in’ to foursquare is at same event, sending in a photo or video should be easy — something would check where you are, then it’d tag it for you without you worrying about it.

http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-39-vyous-aggregated-event-photosvideos-everyones-views/

Actually, the following post is basically what FourSquare became [feb 2007 I wrote this]:

http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-10-in-person-social-networking-eventbar-mingling-via-cell/

and

http://blog.stevepoland.com/idea-75-where-i-hang-out-facebook-app/

Let me know if you build one of these — put it in the comments.
Updated: FourSquare opens their API a bit more.