Archive for February, 2006

Podcast Interview with Nick Gogerty of Inclue

I had an opportunity to talk with Nick Gogerty of Inclue a San Diego based company that an RSS reader that works with Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express. This whole area of content delivery using RSS has been around a while but the adoption has been quite slow. Nick mentions that only 6% of users have an RSS reader.

All the others, that I am familiar with, are a separate application. So, I usually have Outlook open and the reader I use, FeedDemon.

A new version of Inclue is due out soon. It currently supports Outlook 2003, which stopped me from giving it a try. The new version will support older versions and Windows 2000. Having it incorporated and having one less application open is worth trying it out, which I intend to do.

The reader is free and can be downloaded at http://www.inclue.com/home/ and click on Download.

If you have a few minutes, you can get the Podcast at http://socalbuzz.podbus.com/include.mp3. Those of you with iTunes can subscribe to the Podcast and have iTunes download and manage this cast and newones as they come out.

Advertisements

Corporate Canaries, Certainly Worth a Read

Those of you who have been involved the tech scene in San Diego have certainly have run into Gary Sutton. Sutton has been referred to as a “serial entrepreneur” and more accurately a “serial turnaround artist”. I just finished his new book, Corporate Canaries and believe it was time well spent. The book is short, 140 pages, and has the potential to be one of those classics like “One Minute Manager, or Who Moved My Cheese” that are considered a “must read”.

I first saw Gary when he did a presentation at a High Tech Marketing Alliance luncheon, and from the beginning, I knew he was a different individual; no power point presentation and an almost stream of conscious, hour long conversation. He just shared his experiences and captivated the audience.

What made him different from most presenters is that he admits to his failures as he talks about his successes; a combination that adds to his presentation. After all, we all know that we learn much more from our mistakes. Gary has no problem talking about his “learnings”.

You might get the impression that he doesn’t take himself seriously until you get to know him a bit. He is serious, dead serious, about the take-aways that he shares. Any business person would be smart listen to him and incorporate his recommendations into their own processes. 

With Corporate Canaries, he doesn’t need 600 pages with charts and graphs, and  lots of references to others’ work to prove his tenets. He very effectively weaves his learnings into a story about his grandfather’s experiences while working in a Kentucky coal mine where live canaries were a prime indicator of safety to the miners; Canary dies, get out of the mine!!!

He sums up each of the first five chapters with his top three or four take aways. These pearls are the things that you should look for as an indication that your business canary might be in trouble and could jeopardize your future.

It’s not like there is one big “aha! insight”. He describes key indicators that he has used in the past. These are things we have heard before, and know we should follow. Unfortunately, knowing something and using it, are two different things. Although the entrepreneur/leader might be aware of the issue, they often rationalize why their specific business is different. 

Are all his thoughts applicable to all businesses? Probably not, it’s a good bet that if you run into a successful, growing business that the owner or manager already has these principles incorporated into their processes.

Along the way, you gain some insight into Sutton and the experiences that helped shape his skills, knowledge and capabilities. For example, he mentions participating in a 1983 small business seminar at Harvard whose classmates included Craig McCaw of McCaw cellular fame and Paul Orfalea the founder of Kinkos.

Bottom line, this is a quick read and great reminder of the indicators we should be looking at and following to ensure that we don’t wake up one day and find our Canary died and we have to figure out what we are going to do for a living.

 

A Very Cool Website!

I know that this blog is supposed to focus on the Buzz that effects Southern California, but I ran across a website that is really worth mentioning. I owe this one to my wife who heard an interview on NPR yesterday while she was driving back from an appointment.

The site is called “Wolfgang’s Vault“, which is a pretty strange name until you read about who Wolfgang was. Wolfgang was the original first name of Bill Graham the legendary rock impresario who is credited with over 35,000 concerts the world over.

Apparently, he made a habit of taping many of the live concerts and stored them in the basement of his headquarters building where they laid dormant. That is, until Bill Sagan, now president of Wolfgang’s Vault, purchased the archives in 2003 not knowing what real jewels he would find.

All the music is live concerts and there is a vast array of performers: James Taylor from 1970, Led Zeppelin from what was probably their first live performance (they felt compelled to introduce the band members) and hundreds more.

If you want to hear some great music, they are streaming a 5 hour continuous show which they say they update frequently. They are in the process of getting all the distribution rights and agreements so that they can package and sell the music. Until then, you can still listen in and hear some great music. For some of us, we can reminisce about where we were when we first heard a song.

And a special thanks to my wife for listening to NPR and finding this gem. I think I know what channel will be on in my office for the next few weeks.

Enjoy!

The End of An Era

For those of you who missed it, Western Union Recently made the following announcement on their web site:

“Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative.”

For most of us, this was probably a non-event. After all, when was the last time you either sent or received a telegram? But there is a much bigger issue; this is ends an era that began over 150 years ago and can arguably be classified at the genesis of the trillion dollar communications industry that evolved and helped fuel our migration from an agricultural to industrial age.

Samuel Morse sent the first message over a 40 mile wire from Baltimore to Washington D.C. in May of 1844, about three years before Alexander Graham Bell was even born. From that point on, the telegraph and telegrams were ingrained in our culture. Massive infrastructure was laid across the United States during the mid 1800’s and the East and West were able to communicate at speeds that were incomprehensible when that first message was transmitted.

Early in the last Century, the telegram and it’s messenger where engrained in our culture. Almost every movie, play, radio program, and book had at least one scene that included a message being delivered. A telegram being delivered marked a significant event, some good and some tragic. They were used to quickly convey congratulations and recognition of accomplishment and how many families from the 1940’s thru the mid 1970’s received the infamous “We regret to inform you that…”

So what happened? Did the folks at Western Union mismanage the company, not understand what was happening, take their eye off the prize? Hardly, they are currently a $3B revenue stream to First Data Corporation, so they did see the change and made the right changes for their stock holders and employees. What they saw and had absolutely no control was the Internet and the speed at which it was adopted and led to free and ubiquitous email and their being disintermediated by it in only 10 years (I feel safe in saying this happened much sooner than 10 years, they could have made this announcement three or four years ago, they just got around to it).

The key point is that it did happen and a powerful company with all its historical significance was unable to stop it. It shows why the Bill Gates’ and Andy Grove’s of the world believe that paranoia is just another business skill that we should all develop.

Every business owner should be at least a little paranoid about what one of their neighbors are cooking up in their garage down the street. On the other hand with the entreprenuerial spirit that exists, maybe we should all go and see if we can’t come up with a better use for our own garage. “You know I always thought that I could…” STOP

 

Podcasts, Why Should Entrepreneurs & CEOs Care?

Let’s start with Podcasts are great! Along with reading comments and thoughts of people you want to follow, some record their thoughts or participate in interviews and you get hear them, not just read them. OK, so you’ve encountered streaming media before, what’s the big deal? One thing is that you download the mp3 file and listen to it when you want to hear it. You don’t have t tie up your bandwidth while audio is being streamed and get those annoying “Buffering Stream” messages and associated pauses.

Again from my experience, one of the VC’s I was following wrote in a blog that he had so many comments from a post the day before, he decided he needed to better explain what he was thinking and decided to do it through a Podcast. There was a link, so I downloaded and listened to my first Podcast. Here is this VC, recording this response while driving to work. He has a 20 minute drive and decided to make the best of it.

 Now think about this, within a 24 hour period, this VC publishes a blog post, gets a lot of flack that he thinks comes from not being clearly understood and then creates a verbal response where he gets to clarify what he meant and why he said it. I was hooked!

Now shortly after this, a new version of iTunes comes out with support for Podcasts. Very quickly, there are thousands of Podcasts readily available and easy to subscribe. Apple does a reasonable job at classifying them, and like RSS readers for blogs, makes it easy to keep up as new casts become available.

For example, if you want to keep up with what’s happening in technology, Engadget is a place to go. They have both a blog and a Podcast. Peter Rojas and Ryan Block regularly put on about an hour Podcast talking about what’s new.

A couple of weeks ago, they were at the CES show in Las Vegas. Between their blog and Podcasts, I was able to see and hear about a lot of what was going on and never left San Diego. I mean, they walked around with cell phones and took pictures of new products and loaded on the blog. They interviewed some key players and incorporated them into Podcasts; very powerful combination of technologies to bring extremely timely information to their followers. In fact, the following week, they broadcast Steve Jobs’ keynote address at MacWorld.

We’ve all been concerned about information overload. Yet the blog/Podcast duo makes it easy for anyone to keep up with the fast paced world of business and technology. You no longer have the excuse of not having enough time or not knowing where to look to keep up.

In the next issue, we’ll move from passive reader or listener to the active role where you can craft your double barreled messages and create a solid link to your constituencies.

In the meantime, let me know about your experiences with blogs and Podcasts and any thoughts you’d like to share with others.

Have the Large Telecom Companies Lost Their Minds?

I was reading Fred Wilson’s, a partner at Union Square Ventures in NYC, post earlier today on Net Neutrality and it occurred to me that the large telco companies really don’t understand what’s happening in the industry. They still act like they are the only game around, now and forever, and can call all the shots. Fred nails it about who is bringing value to the table! 

I spent a career at a large telco; in fact, it was the largest telco in the early ’80’s. No more though! And you would think these guys would be smart enough to look at what’s happening in the world and try to be a player versus a controller, but no, their arrogance continues to boggle the mind. 

So, what’s happening? Well, for one thing, the Internet really began to take off in 1995, ten years ago. If you consider that 12 and 13 year olds back then are graduating college and joining the workforce. Now people under 25 have had a seriously different experience with communications and technology than I have. 

They mostly watch recorded TV or DVD’s, they instant message, surf the web, and game. They may even do all of these things concurrently. They are the “always on” generation. They have no brand loyalty to the phone companies, are flocking to VoIP services like Skype (why not, they all use computers and what’s better than free?). 

Another point to consider is that this group is the elusive 12 to 35 segment that marketers continuously try to reach. Add to it that each year another layer of the demographic is added to the bottom while another one enters the workforce. 

If I still worked at a large Telco, I would be wondering seriously about my future. Consider this, when these 23 year olds were born, AT&T was a Fortune 5 company; when the Internet took off, AT&T was a Fortune 30 Company; and now as the always on generation enters the workforce, AT&T was just bought by one of its original children (SBC). Who would have believed that a company that was that dominant a market force could be disintermediated in such a short time? 

Now, this blog is about Southern California and San Diego is known for our development of telecommunications companies. My question is do we have any Sky Daltons (EarthLinks 22 year old founder) working on the next generation networks that don’t rely on the SBC’s or Verizon’s of the world? If you do, get your business plans together because it sounds like Fred Wilson might be interested hearing about you.

Blogs, Podcasts, Why Should Entrepreneurs & CEOs Care?

If you’re a CEO of a start-up company looking for venture capital, wouldn’t it be cool to introduce yourself to a general partner of your dream VC firm by saying, “I really liked the point you made on your blog last week when you said….”
Unless you have all the introductions you need to the venture capital general partners on your wish list…read on.
I’d heard of blogging months ago. I had even recommended to clients that they consider creating a blog to communicate to a special niche they were trying to reach. However, I hadn’t experienced using one until last October. I thought it would take too much time, and I was only thinking following versus authoring. When I finally jumped in, I found out how wrong I was.
There are a couple of key elements that are the basis of my being wrong. First is the concept of Really Simple Syndication (RSS). RSS is used to follow blogs.
Now most of us in technology for 20+ years have run into technologies that claim they’re “easy to use” only to find out you need a PHD and 10 years of programming experience.
Really Simple Syndication is just that! To follow blogs all you need to do is:

  • Download a reader (like Feed Demon, NewsGator…)
  •  Find the blog sites you want to follow
  • If the site has RSS feeds, the reader asks if you want to subscribe
  • If you say yes, the site is added to your personal list
  • Bonus: based on your preferences, the reader goes out to the sites you have chosen and tells you what’s new.

How much simpler can that be?
I’ll use my experience as an example. When I finally decided to try this out, I researched readers. I decided to try “FeedDemon”. Lots of writers extolled its benefits. And best of all, they offer a 30-day free trial. (After the trial, it costs $30.)
I downloaded and installed it.  No problem. The download includes a number of sites so you have some sites to look at. One area I wanted to follow was Venture Capital (if you are not looking to raise venture, then pick another issue you want to find about and search around). I now had to find some cool VC web sites (blogs).
I started FeedDemon. It has a user interface with three columns:

    1. Left column is a list of blogs (Internet sites) you follow
    2. Center column is specific entries (a.k.a., “postings”) within a blog,
    3. Right column is a web browser (in my case Internet Explorer with a Google search window included.)

Remembering hearing Steve Jurvetson, of Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson, speak, I thought that he might be a blogger. I googled his name and found one site—The J Curve. I entered the URL into FeedDemon, which took me to www.TheJCurve.com a number of things happened:

  •  FeedDemon identified that there was an RSS feed and did I want to “Subscribe” to it?
  • I did and found that Jurvetson had listed the feeds he followed (Currently it is a link to his photographs).

So, I created a VC Blogs folder and then, with four mouse clicks, The J Curve was included in my reader.

After clicking on new site he recommended, FeedDemon found an RSS feed and asked if I want to include it. I found that many of the authors list the sites that they follow. In a short time, I had a list of 30+ sites that were authored by VCs or followed closely by them.
My next surprise came when I did a little investigation into who these bloggers are and what their role is at their firm. Again, relatively easy.  Most sites have an “About” section that at least identifies the author.
Sometimes they talk about their role, but, if not, a quick Google search, tells you all you want to know. A significant number of these bloggers are Managing Partners, Managing Directors or key General Partners in the firm. More importantly, they are more than casual bloggers and provide almost daily updates.
Now, and this is the key point of this post for start-up entrepreneurs and CEOs: you can find out…

  • What the big guys are talking about
  • What they want to hear
  • How they want to hear it, and other important things on a daily basis and from the top players in the industry.

   
Most of you would kill for some personal advice on what you should do, how you should present, what’s important to your target VC, and what turns VCs off. Well here it is! You don’t need an appointment, or an introduction and you can read it when you have the time!
Now, obviously, this is not the same as pitching, but, you should understand that you probably have a better chance of getting into Harvard University than getting VC funding. If you wanted to get into Harvard, how much prep work would you do? Well, here is one place where can do some extra prep and maybe get some attention the next time you pitch.
Here are some examples:

  • Allen Morgan, a general partner at Mayfield, posted a series on the 10 Commandments for Entrepreneurs, his ideas of the 10 most important “procedural” things to keep in mind when you approach a VC.
  • Guy Kawasaki, Founder of Garage Technology Ventures, talks about his metric of 10/20/30 or no more than 10 Slides, presented in 20 minutes and no less than 30 point type.
  • Brad Feld, Managing Director at Mobius Venture Capital, has been blogging on an important topic, IRS 409A, which any company that uses or intends to use Restricted Stock Options (RSO) in their business, should thoroughly understand and ensure they comply with.

The bottom line is if you are not already following the blogs, you are providing others, going for that same pool of venture cash, a competitive edge. Now why would you want to do that?
Over the next few days, I’m going to talk about Podcasts and then moving from a reader and listener of blogs and Podcasts, to a writer and creator.
In the meantime, I am interested in hearing from you about your experiences or questions about blogs and what other things you’d like to hear about. If you have some Buzz I should know about, you can let me know at mailto:jim@socalbuzz.com.
Note: After writing this entry, I realized it is pretty long. For those who value brevity, I apologize and will attempt to be briefer in the future

 


Subscribe Using Feedburner

a

Flickr Photos

February 2006
M T W T F S S
    Mar »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728