Monthly Archives: November 2006

Feature Not A ($150 Million) Company


One of the more interesting ideas raised at the nextNY BizDev2.0 conversation was “feature not a company”, Chris Fralic of First Round Capital brought it up as one of the criteria they are constantly applying to potential investments to try and differentiate businesses from widgets, firefox plug-ins and clever web-apps that offer utility but do not scale (scale to what? seems like the basement is 50K users and 1M (no link!) is the “most likely to be acquired” tipping point for even $0 revenue services… and for everything in between? I’d wager it’s a power law based on your ability to monetize) or have very limited/no monetization potential.

So today I found this nice post-mortem on the ESPN Mobile service from Shelly Palmer, which neatly demonstrates that nice design, interesting features and a lot of money don’t matter when there is no perceived value.

People do not need to (nor will they) change their behavior to accommodate technology that does not solve an actual problem for them. The service was a parlor trick, a tour de force in programming for a new medium, fun for a few minutes, then ultimately useless. Which brings me to the second more important point.

Everyone in all three target groups already had a phone, so the offering would have to have included all of the services of a “best practices” full-featured cell-phone plan, plus a service that was so meaningful to target customers that they would be willing to pay the upcharge. As we can see from the actual statistics, ESPN could not find anyone to sell these features to.

The overwhelming lesson from ESPN Mobile has more to do with sociology than it does with technology. Features without demonstrable benefits (real or perceived) do not a business make.

If you want more from Shelly, check out Media 3.0 on NYC TV, looks like it could generate some interesting conversations on television’s struggle to stay relevant.

MyBlogLog + LinkedIn = More Better

magictime
I discovered MyBlogLog today. It’s MySpace for people with standalone blogs — relative digital sophisticates or graduates from “the AOL of blogging.” It immediately clicked. It’s an attention tracker, showing you what the bloggers you follow are doing out there on the internets. You can link up with people, assign value (friend, family, fan) to the relationship, monitor your audience and join communities. Blogs you read which are plugged into the service and users who visit your blog or MyBlogLog page both serve as rapid portals to communities that are likely to be of interest for you, so it’s quick and easy to throw together a group of sites you care about. Another nice feature is outbound links monitoring, which shows you the most popular links to offsite content in your communities, providing another level of crowdsourced info-filtering goodness. This is a great service and maybe but maybe not yet another smart buy from the Purple Monster.
Another network that I see a lot of value in, but that doesn’t provide me with as much of a day-to-day payoff is LinkedIn. Their system is “old-school” social networking, without the “push” features seen in MyBlogLog, you have to spam your contacts with e-mail or rely on their limited metrics (identical employers or schools) to pick up additional connections, and communicating through the network is expensive, I have yet to pay $15 in order to send a single email, though I have been tempted a few times. But these choices are good on balance, for LinkedIn is a professional network, it’s designed to include only the people who want to be connected to you. Your LinkedIn contacts are much more likely to take your calls than in more open networks where users and call-girls alike can spam you endlessly to get linked up. And since the point to LinkedIn is professional networking, they’ve made their protected network into a much higher value proposition for job searching than huge, unmanageable networks such as Monster.com, which have had numerous problems with spammers and scammers (the more general point IMO is that the more your system is driven by algorithms — as opposed to human decisions — the more you will be a target for predators).
So with LinkedIn you have a network of people, most often based on a significant personal relationship, and generally aligned with your career aspirations and the professional circles you operate in. MyBlogLog presents you with another network, people who’s interests are pretty closely aligned with yours, based on niche web-surfing activity.
So how about a mashup? If someone becomes a frequent reader of my blog I would probably like to add them to my LinkedIn network, and likewise request connections with certain folks who read many of the same blogs I read.  While the contacts acquired in this fashion will rarely be as valuable as first degree LinkedIn contacts (friends), I would argue they are potentially more valuable than existing second degree LinkedIn contacts (friends of friends). It will be interesting to see how MyBlogLog evolves, it seems like a great opportunity to leverage purely social connections into something with additional value.

nextNY

Duality originally uploaded by Automatt.

A group of technologists and entrepreneurs, sadly weighted heavily on the male side of the ratio, has banded together this year under a banner entitled “nextNY“. They (we) are movers and shakers of things digital in the naked city. Some of us work for big companies, others for very small ones. Some of us will very likely achieve great material success in life, others of us will not (hopefully we will all do okay). We all share a passion for the Internet and for growing commercial social structures (read, businesses) out into the world. Our latest effort is a blog where those of us who feel like it will highlight the impressive things people in our community (and outside of it) are working on to change the world.

I encourage you to stop by. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

…annnd we’re back.

Well. That was something of a siesta. The webring links are currently down, so what trickle of traffic there was has probably dissipated. No fear, we’ll be up and posting about things in the near future and hopefully friends and enemies alike will return to scoff, marvel and wave their hands above their heads like crazy tentacles while they spin in small circles.

That and a few other things.

There are better times to reup the blogging than 1 in the o’clock. Anyone heard any good music lately? I need some tunes badly…