Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Catherine Levene launches Artspace

Cool idea - very close to 20x200 in my eyes but definitely a strong team.

via SAI: Silicon Alley Insider by Alyson Shontell on 3/29/11

artspace Catherine Levine Chriss Vroom

Catherine Levene, former COO and general manager of DailyCandy, did what any executive should do when her company sells. She took a year off to travel the world.

While abroad, Levene studied art history in Madrid. Her passion for the arts led her to a new startup, Artspace.

Artspace, cofounded by Levene and business partner Chris Vroom, launched this morning with $1.2 million in funding.

The site has two main components: it's an archive of work that will educate people about the arts, and it holds weekly private sales for members.

"Cultural institutions, galleries and artists face the challenge of reaching new audiences," says Vroom, who has founded two other art-related startups. "And for those collecting art, there is so much information out there but very few filters. We want to help people learn about art and collect it, and bring that audience to the institutions and galleries."

Artspace hand picks the best contemporary artists to feature on its site; it also partners with galleries like The Guggenheim.  Levene and Vroom will take a cut of all sales, but the rest of the money will go toward supporting artists, art institutions, and nonprofit organizations.

Levene and Vroom currently have a team of six full-time employees, including art curators in Europe and Brazil.  They are backed by Bob Pittman and other notable investors.

We're surprised a company like Gilt Groupe hasn't already incorporated art into their private sales business.  There is certainly a big enough market for an idea like Artspace to work. 

"There are 11,000,000 mass affluent households in the US buying art every year," says Vroom. "They're currently buying art online, or from retail stores like Home Depot and Crate and Barrel. Artspace will show people amazing art they never knew about or thought they could afford."

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Wow, I was among the first 1% of people on Linkedin

And Reid sent me a highly personalized email below... Very flattering!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn <linkedin@em.linkedin.com>
Date: Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 1:01 PM
Subject: Christian, thank you for being among LinkedIn's first million members!
To: christianbusch@gmail.com

100M members


Dear Christian,

I want to personally thank you because you were one of LinkedIn's first million members (member number 512933 in fact!*). In any technology adoption lifecycle, there are the early adopters, those who help lead the way. That was you.

We hit a big milestone at LinkedIn this week when our 100 millionth member joined the site.

When we founded LinkedIn, our vision was to help the world's professionals be more successful and productive. Today, with your help, LinkedIn is changing the lives of millions of members by helping them connect with others, find jobs, get insights, start a business, and much more.  

We are grateful for your support and look forward to helping you accomplish much more in the years to come. I hope that you are having a great year.


Reid Hoffman Signature
Reid Hoffman Reid Hoffman
Co-founder and Chairman

*Your member number is the number embedded in your LinkedIn profile URL (after "id=").

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fred Wilson on Marketing: he's not a fan - but he also doesn't define it very well

You asked for it Arnold and 84 others (so far). So I'm gonna talk about marketing.

I believe that marketing is what you do when your product or service sucks or when you make so much profit on every marginal customer that it would be crazy to not spend a bit of that profit acquiring more of them (coke, zynga, bud, viagra).

A very experienced and successful entrepreneur came into our office a week ago to pitch his latest company. At the end of his pitch he showed us some numbers. Normally for a raw startup we see almost all product and engineering expenses (headcount). But his plan had a monthly budget for customer acquisition. After he left, we talked about his plan and my partners focused on the customer acquisition number. It bugged us. It felt wrong.

So a few days later, I called him. We talked about what we liked about his plan and pitch and what we didn't like. I brought up the customer acquisition line item at one point in that call. He said "every company needs a marketing budget." It seemed like a strong reply but in truth not one of our top performing companies had a marketing budget in their initial business plan.

Zynga has spent millions on customer acquisition and continues to do so. But in the beginning, when Zynga was three or four people and they launched Texas Hold'em on the brand new Facebook Platform, they didn't spend any marketing dollars. That was the beauty of that time and that plan. The Facebook Platform was free distribution. Zynga rode that free distribution to millions of users, profits, and additional games. Only then did they start marketing.

In my talk at Harvard Business School, I said "Early in a startup, product decisions should be hunch driven. Later on, product decisions should be data driven". I've seen that line tweeted a thousand times since then. Clearly people like that rule. Here's another.

Early in a startup you need to acquire your customers for free. Later on, you can spend on customer acquisition.

So if you need to acquire customers for free early in a startup, how do you do that? There is no one right answer, it depends a lot on who your customer is and how hard the sell will be (consumer/enterprise and free/paid). I'm not an expert on enteprise focused SAAS businesses. I am not going to address that part of the market here.

For the consumer/free part of the web, there are some obvious things you will want to do:

1) Twitter - so many entrepreneurs have asked me "how did you start a company before Twitter?" Twitter is that free distribution that Zynga got on the Facebook Platform. You can and should get the word out about your product/service on Twitter and Facebook. You should encourage your friends to post about it, retweet about it, and encourage people to try it out. The digerati hangs out on Twitter and will see the tweets and RTs and many of them will try it out.

2) Social hoooks - Your product/service must be social. It must encourage your users to invite others to try it out. Hooks into Facebook and Twitter are obvious. Email invites are another obvious feature. The product should allow people to express themselves in it. Profiles, personalization, etc will allow the users to feel ownership of the product and tell others about it. Foursquare's adoption of a game dynamic when it launched is a particularly clever implementation of a social hook. Games are the most social of all things on the web.

3) Find entry points - MySpace launched in the holywood crowd that were friends of Tom and Chris. Twitter launched in the SF tech community that were friends of Ev and Biz and Jack. Tumblr launched in the "roll your own blog" avant garde community that David was part of. Quora launched in the Facebook alumni community. Facebook launched on Ivy League campuses. You get the idea. Find an obvious group of like minded people who know each other and launch into that community. If they like it, it will spread throughout that community and eventually beyond.

4) Events - Find live events to launch at. SXSW is famous for breakouts. Twitter and Foursquare are the two most talked about examples. I worry that SXSW has become so big and so many companies are planning to breakout there now, that it can't happen anymore. We will see. But there are many live events that you can attend and galvanize users at. GroupMe did a version of that at the Austin City Limits music festival. I've heard of companies breaking out at Burning Man, The Democratic National Convention (Airbnb), and the Sundance Film Festival.

5) PR - Do not hire a PR firm to do your free marketing for you. This is a core capability you must own. You can and may want to hire a PR firm to supplement your efforts, but that's a different story. The best companies know how to become the story and work it. Being in NYC helps a lot. Foursquare is a great example of this. You can laugh at Dennis and Naveen doing fashion shoots but think about how many new users they got for doing that. It was a stunt like any other stunt they've done. And they have done hundreds of them. The media eats it up as they always need something to write about. Twitter is another example of a company that owned its PR. Biz is a master. At the same time Biz and Jack were iterating on the product, Biz was thinking about the brand, the story, the bird, the logo, the meaning of Twitter in the world. And he got out there and started telling the story. He is an evangelist and he did it so well. Twitter would not be Twitter without that effort. If you don't have a Biz or Dennis on the founding team, find someone who can do this for you. But I will say that the best PR centric startups have the "media DNA" in the founding team.

6) Search - It is not first on the list for a reason. I don't think search driven businesses are interesting. Live by SEO, die by SEO. Don't be a google bitch. But you will notice that many of the top consumer web brands are higly SEO'd. Try searching on a person's name who is active on Twitter. I bet their Twitter feed will be one of the first five results. It is for my name (if you take out dups). Flickr did this very well. So does LinkedIn and Crunchbase. SEO is something that takes time to pay dividends. But you should build your product day one to be search friendly and keep at it. You can break your SEO with product changes and be careful not to do that.

7) Developers - I've said many times that developers are the new power users. Twitter is the iconic example. By launching with an almost totally open plaform and a dead simple API, Twitter got thousands of developers to build products that had "Twitter inside." Those developers and their products pulled Twitter into the market. Soundcloud is another great example. There are a ton of apps that people use to create music and other audio experiences that have "soundcoud inside." Each and every one of those apps is a distribution channel for soundcloud. They are pulling Soundcloud into the market. So build your product as platform from day one. And once you get traction on your product, do things that will cause it to become a platform, Foursquare is doing this well. They first got millions of users and now they are developing a vibrant ecosystem of third party developers. They did a hackday this past weekend that was very successful.

8) Build a great product - I'll end with a return to where I started. Marketing is for companies who have sucky products. If you build something that is amazing (think Flipboard or Instagram or Instapaper) people will adopt it because it is amazing. And you won't have to do much marketing, at least at the start.

So that's what I got on marketing Arnold. What do you think?

Interesting post by Union Square Ventures Partner Fred Wilson - he lists 8 ways to promote a business - that he doesn't considers marketing but that according to the very interesting comment stream (and my own humble opinion) would most definitely fall under Marketing in most companies. He states that he's not a fan of paid customer acquisition unless the monetization model is completely worked out (i.e. LTV>CPA), but that's common sense for most companies. Interesting post with good follow-ups here http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/02/marketing-and-the-bubble.html, http://www.seomoz.org/blog/i-disagree-with-fred-marketing-is-for-companies-th... and http://www.aonetwork.com/node/67411

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lean Startups vs Crack Cocaine - hilarious video

Lessons Learned: SXSW updates

no comment required - just watch this.

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Buy Facebook stock without being a billionaire - through a mutual fund

Goldman Sachs' controversial Facebook investment offering in January was out of the reach of most investors, but at least one mutual fund has been able to grab hold of some shares of the social networking company for its shareholders. At the end of 2010, Dennis Lynch and his team of growth managers quietly added small stakes in Facebook Class B common stock to all of their large-cap-oriented funds. For a relatively reasonable initial minimum investment of $1,000, now all investors can get a small slice of Facebook via  Morgan Stanley Focus Growth (AMOAX

AMOAX) or  Morgan Stanley Capital Opportunities (CPOAX

CPOAX). The table at the end of this article summarizes the amount of Facebook stock that each of Lynch's funds held as of Dec. 31, 2010.

Turns out Morgan Stanley has been able to get a good chunk of Facebook stock - at a $35bn valuation last year. If you want to play and don't have the billions required to go through Goldman, here's your chance to own a piece of Zuckerberg's next big IPO.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Can local deals be successful if the vendor's Yelp ratings suck?

Another "great" deal offered by Travelzoo; my initial reaction when I get these is to yelp them - here's what I got back:  http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=lia+schorr&ns=1&find_loc=New+York%2C+NY

The low rating immediately kills the deal for me - apparently not for the 450+ people who already bought in. I wonder whether there's a direct correlation between yelp ratings and deal success? Has anyone seen research on this or heard from the group shopping companies about this?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Travelzoo <local@email.travelzoo.com>
Date: Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 9:47 AM
Subject: LOCAL DEAL: $45 -- Midtown: Hot Stone Massage or 75-Min. Facial, Reg. $95
To: christianbusch@gmail.com


On behalf of our subscribers in New York, we have negotiated
this Travelzoo Local Deal:

Source: Lia Schorr Day Spa

Trust your skin to the woman who New York Mag says has a
"rock-solid reputation for skincare expertise" with this
exclusive deal at Lia Schorr Day Spa in Midtown.

For $45, choose between the signature 75-minute European
facial or a 50-minute hot stone massage. Both treatments
normally cost $95.

Or, for $99, pamper head-to-toe: This deal includes the
facial, massage and a European pedicure complete with sea
salt bath and foot massage, normally $230.

Open for more than 30 years, the day spa has been featured
in TimeOut New York, Allure and Glamour, among others.

*This deal is valid once 25 are sold -- forward to friends!
*Buy the voucher before 8 p.m. Thursday, March 24.
*The voucher can be redeemed starting Friday, March 25,
through Sept. 24, 2011.

For more information on the deal, click here:


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Sign up for our free Top 20(R) list, Newsflash and
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why is Facebook buying ads in Gmail?


I just saw the first ever Facebook ad in Gmail (screenshot) - wonder why they would be buying traffic to drive to Facebook? Is their traffic declining? Hardly from what I know. Seems as if they can't target these ads against their existing user base as I'm logged into Facebook at the same time and thus cookied. Maybe Facebook has actually figured out that it's profitable for them to buy traffic because they now know how many PVs/ Ad Imps they can get from a new user? Now that would be a pretty big accomplishment!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

SXSW 2011 highlights - the first twelve hours

Got into Austin last night and attending my first SXSW; if you read this, I'm looking for partners to distribute quality video, people who produce great entertainment/lifestyle/fashion content and great new technologies.

now for the highlights:

- all airports should be like Austin: quick, $20 cab ride, friendly

- 80F weather rocks

- Blackberry is dead - at least with the Digital crowd; someone looked at mine last night almost commiserating me for my 12 months old "vintage" device

- Group.me and Foursquare are hot here, if you aren't on there here, you'll be missing out

- Collaboration is key: everyone is making intros and very helpful

- Inofficial events are just as good (or better) as official ones)

- If I went back to college, i'd try to swing a semester in Austin.


Time to roll

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Fear Of Missing Out: FOMO

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is responsible for the research agenda focused exclusively on CIOs and the business of information technology. Read Full Bio

Coverage Areas:

Fear Of Missing Out: FOMO

by Mark P. McDonald  |  July 13, 2010  |  1 Comment

We all get FOMO from time to time.  The fear of missing out is a constant in today busy and multi-priority world where something new is always coming up.  There is always something starting before you have finished what you are working on now.

FOMO is just like the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Except it’s worse. Seeing the green side of the fence is a form of envy based what we can see on an ongoing basis.  It is situational and positional.

FOMO is transactional.  You fear missing out on an opportunity, a new project, a new responsibility, etc.  The opportunity to miss out exists at a point in time, you have to make a decision, your in or your out, decide as we have to move now.

FOMO causes us to make bad decisions not because we are bad people, but rather that our brains are wired to be tortured by this type of decision.

Brain science and behavioral economics observe that we overestimate the importance or value of loss.  The opportunity lost looms much larger in our mind than it really is.  So our fear of missing out is amplified against the importance of our current commitments.

Social interactions reenforce our thoughts as others tout the new opportunity as the latest, greatest,  what all the cool people are doing.  The social pressures can be enormous and they alone lead us to fight to be seen as part of the new thing, not suck with the old slow project or responsibility.

What we have now is no longer as important as what we could have.  The declining value of current work figures in our personal prioritization and rationalization to make room for the new project.  After all by taking on this new project we are creating more value, right ?


Value comes from completion rather than initiation.

Starting things cost money, consumes resources, locks in strategies, etc.

Starting things leads to activities, but the business needs results.

Its easy to forget this in the face of FOMO.

Next, the symptoms of this condition and it’s cost to the enterprise and to you personally. It’s much bigger than you ever thought.

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Category: CIO Strategic planning     Tags: , , , ,

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Good article - i've definitely been affected by this in the past.

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