Friday, December 23, 2011

More Digital Predictions for 2012

Here are Say Media's predictions for 2012 - alongside my comments

1. Access Trumps Ownership In the wake of Steve Jobs' passing and our subsequent obsession with quantifying his impact on society, one thing became clear: a new generation has emerged that is wholly influenced by the device-driven access Apple products provide. They're called the iGeneration and they are redefining the reigns of ownership in startling new ways. This newest generation is detaching itself from the identity-defining sense of ownership their forebears embraced and converting to an almost pure consumption model. What they're teaching us is that it's all about the experience and the interface: the ability to access, share, discuss and move on. 

2. Death of the Daily Deal We loved that daily deals like Gilt made online shopping sporting … for a while. Then lots of people did it. And we realized that we weren't always getting that great of a deal and that being a slave to the deal was more a hassle than anything else. Turns out, what we really value in modern retail - taste and curation - is not the stuff that fills our mailboxes with reminders of an empty addiction to stuff. 

3. It's All About the Device This year everyone is joining Apple in the hardware business - Amazon, Google, B&N, and soon Facebook. When the world goes mobile, just having a site or app is not enough. The only reliable way to guarantee access to the consumer now is to control the whole stack. See the battle take shape when Siri moves in front of search on all Apple products, or the new Bing lead navigation experiences on the xBox

4. Social Networks Can Thrive Outside of Facebook While the Like button is ubiquitous and Facebook dominates world-wide time on site metrics, 2011 demonstrated that social applications can survive - and even thrive - outside of Facebook. Instagram, the iPhone-only photo sharing application, went from zero to 10 million users in under a year. Path pivoted with version 2.0 of their service, and ignited user growth even while ostensibly competing with Facebook on the core "use cases" of status updates, photo sharing and location check-ins. The key to success for these apps? First, focus on the user experience. And then don't fight Facebook directly, but leverage it: connect to help users find their friends, and then post from the app back to Facebook to help drive awareness with the later adopters. 

5. The Return of Editorial Design HTML was the worst thing to happen to the art of editorial design. And it's taken 15 years to turn the ship around. Thanks to HTML 5, the iPad and the Apple SDK, 2011 was a year of real progress. Just check out The Verge. Or Fast Company's Co Design. We love the craft in the Path iPhone app. And BusinessWeek makes the magazine tablet experience a joy. We can't wait to show you our latest when the new Remodelista debuts in January.

What did you learn in 2011? Tell us in the comments on our blog.

This is the SAY newsletter, delivered weekly, featuring our take on media, culture, venn diagrams and the occasional look back. Forward it to your friends, because sharing is caring.

This week's SAY: Faves

Marc Andreesen: Predictions for 2012 (and beyond) (cnet)
YouTube in 2011: The Top 10 Videos (Silicon Angle)
Remodelista Gift Guides: Last-Minute Gifts for Everyone (Remodelista)
Mediashift on the ReadWriteWeb Acquisition (SAYDaily)
xoJane Exclusive: Pics of Courtney Love's Amazing Townhouse (xoJane)
Honestly...WTF: All Kinds of Awesome (



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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Andreessen's predictions for 2012 - and a few from yours truly Christian Busch

Marc Andreessen

(Credit: Andreessen-Horowitz)

Marc Andreessen's view of the world boils down to software.

From where he stands, as the guy who co-founded Netscape Communications and now co-runs the powerful Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, no industry is safe from software. Or, as Andreessen put it in a much-discussed piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal, "Software is eating the world."

Software has chewed up music and publishing. It's eaten away at Madison Avenue. It's swallowed up retail outlets like Tower Records. The list goes on.

No area is safe--and that's why Andreessen sees so much opportunity.

Fueling his optimism: ubiquitous broadband, cloud computing, and, above all, the smartphone revolution. In the 1990s, the Internet led to crazy predictions that simply weren't yet possible. Now they are.

I caught up with Andreessen to talk about 2012 and software's onward march.

Q: Let's start with smartphones.
Andreessen: I think 2012 is the year when consumers all around the world start saying no to feature phones and start saying yes to smartphones. Feature phones are going to vanish out of the developed world and over the course of five years they'll vanish out of the developing world.

That's a big deal because?
That's a big deal because that's the key enabling technology for software eats the world broadly. Because that's what puts the computer--literally puts a computer in everybody's hand.

In a way that the PC industry couldn't?
Most of the people in the world still don't have a personal computer, whereas in three to five years, most people in the world will have a smartphone.... If you've got a smartphone, then I can build a business in any domain or category and serve you as a customer no matter where you are in the world in just gigantic numbers--in terms of billions of people.

Does that mainly help existing players, or also open opportunities for new businesses?
Both. If you're an Amazon or a Facebook or a Google or even a startup, the fact that you can potentially address 2 billion smartphones in the developed world or 6 billion in three or five years, in the entire world, it's just a huge expansive market.

But it also opens up new kinds of businesses. The big thing that happened in 2011 was sort of the rise of the verticals, and e-commerce was the hotbed of that. We saw the rise of a whole category of e-commerce category killers in verticals that 5 or 10 years ago couldn't support high growth companies because the markets weren't big enough.

What e-commerce players are you thinking of?
We just did an investment in Fab, which is just growing by leaps and bounds, and there's Airbnb [Andreessen-Horowitz is an investor]. That company is growing vertically. It's software eats real estate, software eats home furnishings. Another very exciting company, which we're not invested in, is called Warby Parker, an e-tailer for eyeglasses. So it's software eats Lens Crafters.

It's just on and on and on across different verticals because of the number of consumers who a) have PCs, b) are on the Internet, and now c) have smartphones. I expect vertical specialization to continue and there to be killer Silicon Valley style software companies in all kinds of verticals and categories in 2012 and 2013 that weren't viable three or five years ago.

Just e-commerce?
E-commerce was the hotbed of vertical personalization of 2011, and big fat vertical expansion goes into other categories other than e-commerce in 2012. It could be content. It could be new kinds of service providers.

We've seen some already.
One I really like that we're not involved in is Uber. Uber is software eats taxis. It's almost entirely a smartphone-based application bringing town cars to you.... It's a killer experience. You watch the car on the map on your phone as it makes its way to you.

That's smartphone specific, and there's going to be all kind of things like that. Task services like Zaarly and Taskrabbit are delivering a sort of distributed mobile workforce available on demand through your smartphone.

These are slicing and dicing different aspects of the economy into vertical slices or category slices and making them available via smartphones hooked to these really powerful networks with cloud computing on the back-end. We're just seeing a pattern of companies doing this over and over.

So who should be scared in 2012?
I think 2012 is the year that retail--retail stores--really starts to feel the pressure. And I don't say that because I don't like retail stores. I loved going to Borders. I thought it was a great consumer experience. And I was a huge fan of Tower Records.

But the economic pressure is huge as e-commerce gets more and more viable and as these category killers emerge in the superverticals. If I own mall real estate or retail stores in cities, or if I own chains like electronics chains, I'd be concerned.... I think electronics and clothes are going to be a real pressure point. Home furnishing is going to come under pressure. It's going to get harder and harder to justify the retail store model.

The model has this fundamental problem where every store has to have its own inventory and every store is also a warehouse. The economic deadweight of that entire inventory in each store--that's what took down Borders.

Retail runs at very thin margins. So if e-commerce takes a 5 percent or 10 percent or 15 percent bite out of your category, then it becomes harder to stay in business as a retailer. So I think 2012 is the year that that really kicks in.

Doesn't this bode well for the e-commerce incumbents?
For sure, Amazon is going to do really well and anybody with major e-commerce is going to do real well. But the new companies in e-commerce verticals are providing a very differentiating customer experience that is much more like shopping as entertainment.

Fab has more interesting products and merchandising and presents them in a more interesting way with much deeper social interaction. At Fab, something like 25 percent of the purchases over Black Friday weekend were a result of Facebook referrals. There's a whole fun element to shopping and whole entertainment element and whole excitement element that the first generation of e-tailers were not very good at.

Like Amazon?
I like to say that the first generation of e-tailers was really good for nerds. Amazon for me is--I love it--it's like the biggest warehouse superstore of all time. It's just awesome, and I love wandering up and down the aisles and it's like, 'wow, look at that.' If I do enough searches I can discover anything.

The new generation of e-tailers are much more appealing to normal people--people who like to go the mall, have fun with their friends and try on clothes and compare clothes, and go home and brag to their roommate what they got on sale, and all the rest of it. A lot of new startups are not only very viable but also growing very fast because they provide a very different experience.

Aren't there opportunities for startups to help?
Yeah, there's going to be a big opportunity for software assistance for the incumbents at getting better in the new world.

As an example, at eBay [where Andreessen is on the board], we bought a company called Milo, and there' a competitor called Shopkick. These guys expose local inventory on retail store shelves and make it available as part of the e-commerce experience. That's the kind of software that's going to be incredibly useful to retail chains as they seek to compete online because it unlocks the local inventory.

The other category is represented by Groupon and Foursquare [both also Andreessen-Horowitz investments] and a whole new generation of these local e-commerce platforms, which is bringing online the gigantic number of businesses in the world that aren't on the Internet today at all. Whether it's a restaurant or hairdresser or day care center or yoga center or lawn care firms and on and on, there are so many that just aren't online in any meaningful way today, even 15 years into the Web.

Advertising on Google doesn't do them any good because it doesn't matter if people come to their Web site, it's not how they get business. So there's going to be a whole set of new companies, like Groupon and Foursquare, that are going to unlock these local businesses that aren't even online today.

If nothing else, Groupon has done a great job of getting local businesses online.
I've always felt that the criticism of Groupon has been unwarranted. People have really underappreciated what Groupon has done, which is they've created a way for small businesses that aren't online to spend money online and be able to dial up customers on demand. That's a really big deal.

I think Foursquare is a revolution in the local experience of cities and connecting to small businesses around you, through information and, increasingly, coupons and offers. Again, it's customer acquisitions. There are going to be more of these kinds of things--and a whole bunch of new ideas in 2012.

And this all circles back to smartphones.
Foursquare was impossible before smartphones. There was no way to implement it. Then, there's the other side of this. There's the user app for Foursquare, but there's also going to be the merchant app for all these things.

Local merchants, like local restaurant owners, are going to have a smartphone app they can use to dial up customers on demand. Whether that's from Groupon or Foursquare--any of these companies can do that. A lot of small business owners are going to start running their businesses from their smartphones.

Andreessen is extremely bullish on mobile, vertical e-commerce and disruptive apps (uber).
I've heard that next year is the big year in mobile since about 1998 and so far it's been 13 wrong predictions. However, owning an amazing Android phone (Samsung Galaxy SII), an Ipad and seeing that up to 40% of traffic on our websites (youth-focused, so trend-setting) now come from mobile devices (Ipod touch is the most popular right now), i'm going to go long on mobile for 2012.

Prediction #1: Mobile is going to grow and especially the following:
m-commerce (that sounds so 1999)
mobile-local integration (think price comparison apps, instant coupons, map-mashups) and
mobile video advertising (scalable, measurable, good CTRs)
purpose-built apps (ie not-newspaper apps which will move to DHTML5) such as uber, tripadvisor's travel guide apps)

Predicition #2: Online (and mobile) video is going to be big: TV $ are moving, Youtube is becoming the biggest cable network in history and there's lots and lots of demand for pre-roll inventory online.

Prediction #3: E-commerce is going to grow and consolidate: too many small e-commerce plays are out there right now; they need to join forces to reap economies of scale

Prediction #4: Daily deals continue to fizzle and become more segmented: I like Gilt City and Bloomspot, not a fan of the spray-and-pray chiropractor deals on GRPN etc. The merchants participating in those deals need to offer aggressive deals for a reason... They're not best in class. I've yet to see a "deal" from Paul Smith or Gramercy Tavern.

Prediction #5: The social craze is going to splinter: Facebook, Twitter will continue to attract huge audiences, lots of smaller players will fall by the wayside. And no one has yet created a great, local play on social: Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Socialight etc. have all failed to connect real people in real places so far.

It'll be another great year to ride the digital wave, happy 2012 everyone!

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The next gen cable network: new Youtube-funded channels begin launching

Glad to see our partner, ClevverTV get a nice mention in this WSJ story today. The Youtube channel strategy with a rumored $100MM dedicated to producing new, high-quality content on Youtube is starting to roll out - excited to see how the audience will react to these channels over the next few months and whether they will actually reduce TV consumption in favor of youtube.

By Amir Efrati

With YouTube’s redesign last week, the stage was set for the Google site’s big bet on professionally-produced video “channels.” Now here come the channels.

On Tuesday, KinCommunity, a women’s-oriented lifestyle channel run by a company called Deca, went live with videos on food, fashion, parenting and personal stories. With its mission to celebrate the “simple artistry of everyday life,” KinCommunity features short clips including advice for moms on how to dress after having kids, a mini-documentary about a mother who uproots her American family and moves to Tuscany, and a video that shows people how to make coconut chocolate macaroons.

“We want to be the big online brand for women over 25,” says Deca CEO Michael Wayne, who started the company in 2007 and previously launched sites including,, and

By the middle next year, more than 100 channels featuring everything from sports to drama to new Disney programming will appear on YouTube, the world’s most popular video site, which hopes to become a premium video network that also graces the world’s living-room screens.

Last month we introduced you to some of the channel creators. Since then two other channels have launched, both with Spanish-language videos: Maker Studios’ Tutele, which includes a telenovela called “Melodia de Amor,” or “Melody of Love,” and ClevverTeVe by Clevver Media, which features a round-up of entertainment news. Another channel for women and moms will debut on Wednesday, a YouTube spokeswoman said.

KinCommunity will produce three new videos a day. “We want to give women a moment where they can get away and experience something beautiful and take two minutes to themselves,” Deca’s Wayne said. Unlike other new YouTube channels that will feature or be tied to well-known personalities such as Brooke Burke, Madonna and Jay-Z, KinCommunity won’t have any brand name celebrities so that it can focus on “being authentic, real and accessible,” Wayne said. On-camera talent will include women who write popular blogs or Deca’s own vice president of programming, Beth Le Manach, and its creative director, Eileen Levinson.

He added that Deca, which is “spending more on creating this content” than prior online videos, has hired a social media manager to help promote its KinCommunity content on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on the Web.

YouTube paid out large cash advances to the creators of the new channels. The creators will split advertising revenue with YouTube after the company recoups its advances.

Above, a video from KinCommunity, a new women’s-oriented lifestyle channel on YouTube.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mark Suster says: the next big thing on the Internet is.... TV

Good presentation by someone who is very active in this space already, one of the few spaces that LA may take a lead in with regards to Internet and technology. Good presentation, the last few slides are about his TV thesis (which I fully subscribe to).

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Never be dismissive: Embracing Opposing Views of a hot startup or trend RT #msuster

Great post by Mark Suster on why it's always worth trying to understand why something (e.g. Foursquare, Airbnb) is so hot at the moment. Rather than dissing them, look deeper and see what you could learn from them." target="_blank" style="color: #888; font-size: 22px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-weight: normal; text-decoration: none;">Both Sides of the Table

Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 06:19 PM PDT

What could you learn from looking at your competitors or other tech startups in a different way?

Are you cynical about their chances in the market just because they seem to be hot in the press and that bugs you? Or you think their startup is a passing fad and yours is the real deal?

I hear views like this all the time. Even if you’re right – there’s something you may be missing.

Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures wrote a great post the other day that reminded me I’ve been meaning to write about this topic.

“My desire for this “Opposing Views Reader” is related to my concern about information cascades.  In general, we seem to be building too many positive re-enforcement systems on the web.  How about “agree” and “disagree” buttons? If all you can do is “like” or “favorite” items, it becomes very hard to express that you care about something but have a different opinion.”

I feel the exact same way.

I’m a news junkie and love to watch the Sunday morning talk shows like Meet the Press, This Week with Christiane Amanpour or Shields & Brooks on The News Hour on Fridays. But I tape the shows. I can’t watch them live because I have to skip through the guest interviews. I’m tired of hearing one side of the story – it’s pre-packaged BS. I like the round table discussions they have later in the show because you get to hear opposing views.

And that has had me thinking about the tech sector and how dismissive both startup teams & VCs can be about both their competition and the “hot” companies in any sector.

I was at a dinner about a year ago with a few VCs and startup founders. The topic of FourSquare came up. None of the VCs were investors in FourSquare. People were being so dismissive when I checked into our restaurant, “oh, yeah, let’s see if you’re the mayor now. Oooh.”

My response

“I dunno, guys. Maybe this mayor thing will last and maybe it won’t. Maybe check-ins will be automatic in the future some day or maybe people won’t care about check-ins.

But I do know that FourSquare has captured the zeitgeist of what young, mobile & social people want. That plus great press & it’s working on some level.

I’m sure the management team & board over there know that they need to focus on what comes beyond mayors, badges & check-ins. I’m interested to see where they take it next.

But what could we learn from them today?

If you think it’s all a marketing gimmick [I don't] then let’s discuss how we could be better at marketing in the way that they have. If you think that game mechanics are the innovation, then let’s talk about whether it would apply to our company. If you think it’s location-based services / find out where your friends are at while you’re out – let’s talk about whether we need to incorporate that into our product.

To ignore FourSquare would be dumb. I use technology precisely to try and develop an intuitive feel about what will work and what won’t”

The management team got it. The VCs snickered a bit. I was unconvincing, I guess. They knew their position on FourSquare. They weren’t looking for an opposing view.

I had a similar experience with

I’m not a “music guy” so I tend to grok music stuff less than others. But I saw before it was a larger phenomenon. My wife was traveling so I was on the computer late at night. I logged into a room to listen to music & see what the product was all about.

Boy did I get sucked in. I wanted a turn at DJ’ing so I waited until I could find the right room to DJ in. I watched the music that others were playing to see what the vibe was. I played with the buttons “awesome” to support a DJ and saw my head bobbing up and down when I liked his music. Mostly I chatted with other people in the room that I knew. And many I didn’t know.

I trash talked their music selection. I swore to myself I’d pick cool songs. I didn’t want to be that music dork with no style.

I finally got on stage. Then I had to wait four more songs until I got my turn. I played Lenny Kravitz. The LEGEND! Everybody loves Lenny Kravitz, right? I didn’t play more obscure stuff like “Mr. Cab Driver” [ok, if you don't know this song do yourself a favor, click on the link and listen to it.]  I played “Are You Gonna Go My Way” – an absolute KILLER of a song. [go on, listen to it as you read the rest of this post]

So I played Lenny and …. I got boo’ed. Really? Eff you guys! OK, I’ll come up with something more conventional that EVERYBODY with taste loves. I played Rage Against the Maching “Killing in the Name Of.” [go on ...] Has a better male angst song EVER been written? Ah, man! Booed for that, too? How old are you guys? Do your parents know you’re up past midnight pretending to be tech people on

I got sucked in two nights in a row past 2am. My wife never knew [until now, gulp]. What a great way for a guy like me stuck in the 90′s on music to get curated music while I do other stuff. I think that’s pretty cool in the way Pandora helps me explore new music.

I got so excited to tell other people what I liked about I called a bunch of portfolio companies and asked them to check it out. I said the same thing to each:

“I don’t know if it’s a real business or not. I’m not a ‘music guy.” But I know there is something addicting to what they’ve built. Check it out. Let’s see if there is anything we can learn about our behavior – good lessons or bad ones – that will inform our product design in the future.”

I loved the IM’ing with the crowd and the sense of community. I loved the competition to get on stage and then how when you’re on stage you have to wait patiently to play your tracks. I loved the anticipation of how the crowd would react to my choices. I didn’t love that nobody in the room had taste. But I lobbied hard using IM to get people to “like” my song so I could see those addictive bobbing heads. It worked!

And when I started telling other VCs to check it out I have to admit they were pretty dismissive. By now it had been in the press a bunch and there was a sort of “here we go again” attitude.

“It will never work. The labels will kill them. It’s just a fad propped up by the Silicon Valley elite marketing machine.”

Wow. Who pee’d in your Cheerios this morning?

I don’t care if succeeds [I hope it does]. That’s not the point. What could we learn from their success? The goal isn’t to copycat them. I don’t want to see any more freakin’ “we’re the of …X.” No, you’re not. I want people to look at what components of it work (product, art work, invite system, marketing … whatever you think it is that drove people to flock there in the first place).

And even more pertinent to you specifically at your startup …

The number of companies I talk to (or even portfolio companies) who are dismissive of their competitors is enormous. Have respect for your competitors. Understand what they do well and why. Don’t just mentally write off their features or marketing as “dumb” – ask internally what you could learn from it.

I talked to one company who had build really differentiated IP and had great customer traction. Yet they somehow never got as much press as one of their less-funded competitors who had less good of a product and significantly fewer customers.

I said:

“Guys, let’s stop whining about it and do something about it. Let’s understand why they’re getting better press. Let’s think about whether that is hurting us or not. Let’s understand what about our approach isn’t resonating with journalists. Are we off message? Is our product not as pretty? Do we have the wrong PR firm? Are we not at enough tech events?

… And only after we answer these questions should we decide if we WANT to be better than them in this way or not. But let’s at least understand it.”

So the next time you’re tempted to write off the latest hot company: Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr, Spotify, AirBnB, or whatever – in stead of being envious or dismissive be “dissecting.” Find out what you think in their product is working and what you don’t think matters. Understand why they’re getting user adoption and what you could learn from that.

Is it just that they have the right VCs and therefore they’re deemed as hot? If so, what are you going to do abou that? Do they have a tighter integration with Facebook and therefore are getting lower-cost customer adoption – fix that. Did they crawl through Craigslist spamming people to acquire customers more rapidly? What guerilla tactics do you want to use? What’s fair game? What’s not?

Never be dismissive. Sometimes hyped companies and competitors are just that – hyped. But often there are some kernels of magic that are happening in that place that’s helping propel them in to a place that you wish you were.

What could you learn from them?

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Annoying Orange vs Angry Birds - guess who gets shot first?

Funny video and good use of storytelling through interlinking different videos based on a user's decision. can do this even more seamlessly but nonetheless this is pretty funny!

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs Tribute: "Here's To The Crazy Ones"

This is the best one I found in the last hear. RIP Steve Jobs. inspiring.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Don Draper Pitches Facebook Timeline: Mad Men spoof","duration":0,"scaling":"fit"},{"url":"","autoPlay":false,"scaling":"fit"}],"screen":{"width":625,"height":360,"top":0,"left":0},"canvas":{"backgroundGradient":"none","background":"rgba(34,34,34,1)"},"plugins":{"controls":{"playlist":false,"autoHide":"never","buttonOverColor":"rgba(255,255,255,1)","progressGradient":"none","timeBgColor":"rgb(0,0,0,0)","durationColor":"rgba(255,255,255,1)","timeBorder":"0px solid rgba(0,0,0,0)","sliderGradient":"none","buttonColor":"rgba(255,255,255,.82)","backgroundGradient":"none","timeColor":"rgba(255,255,255,1)","borderRadius":"0px","tooltipTextColor":"rgba(255,255,255,1)","timeSeparator":" ","bufferGradient":"none","volumeBorder":"1px solid rgba(255,255,255,.36)","volumeSliderColor":"rgba(255,255,255,.09)","volumeColor":"rgba(255,255,255,1)","sliderBorder":"1px solid rgba(255,255,255,.36)","volumeSliderGradient":"none","tooltipColor":"rgba(0,0,0,1)","sliderColor":"rgba(255,255,255,.09)","buttonOffColor":"rgba(130,130,130,1)","progressColor":"rgba(0,119,238,1)","bufferColor":"rgba(255,255,255,.18)","backgroundColor":"rgba(34,34,34,1)","height":24,"opacity":1}},"playerId":"player_video_buzz_element_1212588_10460","clip":{}}" />

Hilarious video; only one missing on this is Mark Zuckerberg meeting Don... But wait - Zuckerberg wasn't even born when Don Draper did this presentation...

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Lost Five Million Dollars This Morning Altucher Confidential

I Lost Five Million Dollars This Morning

I found an email this morning that cost me about somewhere between two and five million dollars. It was dated April, 2009.   I was one of two that were cc-ed on the email.The guys who wrote the email , like most people who need money, were desperate. I’m an email hoarder and like to extricate what I can from the archaeological dig that gmail provides me.


(five million dollars)

There were two emails. Here’s the first:


April 29, 2009:

Dr. Zhivago [name changed to preserve the innocent.]

I’m writing to introduce you to the team at Foursquare, Dennis and Naveen.  They’re a really interesting startup based here in NYC. It’s a location-based service for friend finding and venue finding, and is quickly becoming a competitive game amongst tech digerati in major cities around the country. Killer team, incredibly net-native approach, great game dynamics to increase engagement.

We (XYZ Ventures)  definitely want to continue to follow their progress, but given their current stage, we’d love to see these guys pick up some angel invesment in the near-term to see how their current success can scale over the next few months.  So, we thought of you as a good person for them to talk to. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m sure a conversation with the team will be mutually beneficial.


One person on the cc-list wrote back to Dr. Zhivago and me:

George Washington wrote: [Again, name changed]

I saw them present at ny tech. I thought it was fun but geared mostly towards college kids, but XYZ thought it was a disaster. Pass.

So there you have it: Foursquare. That seed round valued the company at about $5 million. A few months later they turned down an offer from Yahoo to buy them for $100 million in cash.  More recently they raised money at about a $300 million valuation. The business is actually doing great. They are making money. Someone will buy them over the next two years for over a billion dollars. Probably Facebook will buy them.

Whatever I would’ve invested at that round would’ve been worth anywhere between one and three million at this point and much more by the time they get bought. So in my mind, I lost three to five million dollars this morning.

This morning I’m a witness to a disaster. I could’ve had that money.  I also could’ve been deeply invested in Google pre-IPO.  So now this goes on the list of things I regret. Someone might say, “it’s only money”. But money is a good thing. It’s a great thing even.  Every day I find new ways where I potentially sacrificed my future.

And I wrote THE seminal post on how to deal with regrets. It’s easy to give advice. Does Eckhart Tolle take his own advice. It’s easy to speak about regrets, but with one sitting here right in my hand, like a baby bird, will I let it go and let it fly? It’s like opening a window in a jail. It’s easy to climb through it. But will I?

But I will follow my advice:

  • -           First off, I’ll ask, “What am I doing Today?” Since this regret involves money, when I do the Daily Practice below and exercise the Idea Muscle I’ll focus on things that can make me money. I’ll also keep bringing myself back to the present, the only reality that exists for me right now.
  • -          Today I Will do the Daily Practice I outline. I’ll exercise. Exercise my idea muscle. Meditate. Etc.
  • -          I’ll laugh. There’s a new episode of The Office out. I’m excited to watch it.
  • -          Don’t judge people. I won’t judge anyone on this email. Everyone had a rationale for not doing the deal. And I could’ve done it anyway. Nobody was stopping me. In fact, they wanted me. So it’s my fault. I would never judge or blame.
  • -          Honesty. I’m not going to lie to myself. My life would’ve probably been a lot better if I had made that investment. I make a lot of mistakes. Some of them are life-changing mistakes. This was delivered to me in my hands. When you lie to yourself, you keep the regret bottled in, so it never escapes and it infects your brain. How would you like it if someone sawed your brain in half, severing all your connections into two different realities.
  • -          List the positives. It so happens the day I got that email was also the day I had my first date with Claudia. If I had to do due diligence on Foursquare maybe I never would’ve gone on that date. That’s a huge positive. Another positive: I’m happy people thought of me for this. I’m potentially in the flow for future deals.
  • -          Be passionate about your work. I’m about to officially release my latest book: “I Was Blind But Now I See”. I’m passionate about the ideas in this book. Much more passionate than I ever would’ve been about Foursquare. I only have about 40 or 50 years left on this planet. I want those moments to be filled with things I’m passionate about.

(Click image to see on Amazon )

  • -          Good will. Everyone I see today I’m going to wish them well. I’m going to continue to help Claudia deal with her sickness. I’m going to do good today. Having extra possessions will never change me being a good human.

All of this sounds sappy. Like I’m trying to make up for something. I can’t betray myself.  I’m never going to be feel GREAT about this email. But so what?

Right behind me I have hanging this picture:

It’s Joe Harris’s initial sketches of “Underdog” before it became a cartoon hit in the 60s. I’m Underdog. And deep down, whether anyone believes it or not, I’m also a superhero.

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I love James Altucher's self-deprecating writing style (and his tips on dealing with regret are great, too. I didn't get a chance to angel-invest in Foursquare but I do wish the best to Dennis, Naveen and the team - hopefully they will sell for a thousand million $$$

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Friday, September 23, 2011

The power of crowdfunding for known video creators

Wow that was fast. I saw Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch’s posting on Kickstarter yesterday for their Video Game High School project, asking fans to kick it $75,000 to help fund it. In less than 24 hours, the pair blew past their goal and have now raised over $77,000 with 1,736 backers and counting.

At first it seemed a little odd that two of YouTube’s hottest young creator-filmmakers would even need to resort to crowdsourced funding at all. But then I came to realize that they may have just pulled one of the smartest moves ever, getting the fans bought into the project before it even starts shooting. Skin in the game. Word is this is just a piece of the overall budget for the series, but still crucial to the production.

All of us here would like to thank our generous backers, who have raised over $75k for VGHS in a single day!

Every dollar we raise here is going into making this project the biggest and best series it can possibly be. More money means we’ll be able to spend more on VFX shots, production design, hiring cast and crew, etc. – all of which will have a material impact on the quality of the final product.

So know this – your pledges and your support can only improve this project from this point forward. By pre-ordering the DVD now and pledging your support, you’re ensuring that the end product is better than it would have been.

We can’t thank our fans enough – you are redefining how online content is made and funded, so let’s make this one of the biggest Kickstarter projects of all time!

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Related News:

  1. Freddie Wong, Brandon Laatsch on Jimmy Kimmel Tonight
  2. ‘We Are With the Band’: Hipster Comedy Funded Through Kickstarter
  3. How To Raise Money For a Web Series with Kickstarter

Freddie Wong is one of the top 10 youtube stars and regularly receives several million views for his new videos. Now he's tapped the crowdfunding well and within a day already raised $80k from his fans for a new project. Truly impressive yet not surprising considering his reach equals that of a large cable show in any given week!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix confronts the innovator's dilemma head on: meet Qwikster

Netflix Splits In Two -- The DVD Business Will Be Renamed Qwikster

Matt Rosoff | Sep. 19, 2011, 1:10 AM | 4,417 | 22

Reed Hastings with DVDs

Yes, the Qwikster envelopes will still be red.

161.8 +6.61 (+4.259%)
Netflix is renaming its traditional DVD-by-mail business Qwikster and will run it as a separate business.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced the change on the Netflix blog on Sunday night. Andy Rendich, who has been running the DVD business for the last four years, will become CEO of Qwikster.

Both businesses will still be part of the same company -- this is a branding change, not a full spinoff. Netflix announced plans to make the split in its last earnings call.

But the name change highlights the fact that Netflix sees its future as streaming.

The company is facing pressure from Wall Street after lowering subscriber expectations last week. The company's stock plunged almost 20% the day after the revision.

The revision was mainly about the DVD part of the business -- Netflix dropped subscriber expectations from 15 million to 14.2 million for the quarter. It also lowered streaming subscriber expectations slightly, from 22 million to 21.8 million.

Netflix dramatically raised prices for DVD-plus-streaming customers in July, and this has apparently driven some customers away. But a lot of analysts argued the loss of DVD customers isn't that bad -- it actually means that Netflix is taking bold steps to avoid the classic innovator's dilemma, and cannibalizing its current successful business to bet on the future.

In his blog post announcing the change, Hastings apologized for the way Netflix announced the changes: "members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes."

He also explained gave a good explanation of why Netflix is doing this -- it doesn't want to become the next AOL or Borders:

Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business. Eventually these companies realize their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.

When Netflix is evolving rapidly, however, I need to be extra-communicative. This is the key thing I got wrong.

By the way, the Qwikster envelopes will still be red. Only the logo will change.

And yes, Qwikster is kind of hard to say out loud.

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This is a bold move by a bold company: they're splitting the business into old (let's call this blockbuster) and new (let's call this hulu). It's a great way to try and run the streaming business as aggressively as they have to in order to gain an edge there after recent misses (Starz etc.) and will give the legacy business a chance to be managed for cash-flow. Logical next step? Two separate stock market listings - but i'd be somewhat afraid of that if you consider Hulu is supposedly worth around $2bn and netflix is currently worth almost $9bn; I doubt someone would pay $7bn for the mail-order business.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

An inspiring quote for the week

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.

Thanks to @inakib - follow him on Twitter here:!/inakib or check out his cool company Photofeed here:

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Friday, July 29, 2011

YouTube marketing at its best

Great example of a youtube promotion with FreddieW for the new movie Cowboys vs Aliens. The product placement is very well done and the video has already attracted more than 3MM views over the first few days - that's probably more people than have watched the movie so far.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Silicon Alley golf invitational teeing off


Looks like i actually hit the ball fairly somewhat well on this one..

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Gossip And Golf With New York's Ad Tech Big Shots


My foursome at this week's Silicon Alley Invitational - thanks to Ross for saving our score, Chris for lowering the level of conversation and Andrew for now bringing the 1,000 carnitas tacos he constantly talked about.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good-bye Borders, RIP


Having worked in the book space for years, it's sad to see a big player in the book market go; my best wishes to the employees who will be let go and let's hope at least B&N and the small stores can stay afloat.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

lessons from the silicon alley 2011 golf invitational #SAGI11

Today i had the privilege to play golf with about 60 fellow NYC Internet entrepreneurs and a Californian golf pro Huey Lewis whose claim to fame is having secured $15k for a movie about becoming a pro on Kickstarter:

Some quick observations from the NYC Internet crowd:

- everyone is alive and kicking and there's lots of activity, especially in the ad tech space (RTB, SSP, CPC, MDC, et al)
- Android seems to be getting a headstart on Iphone with this crowd - but blackberries can still be found
- Twitter is passe with the Internet exec crowd - only about 10 tweets during the event
- Scramble lets everyone win on the golf course!

Looking forward to 2012 or maybe a rematch in 2011!

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