Blood on the tracks

While I was enjoying some of the stars of tomorrow at Seedcamp 08 , the rest of the world was in major meltdown.

Following on from last week’s suggestion that we weren’t near the bottom, the market has well a truly spoken: ‘We aren’t’.

Today’s grim reading in this 1 day heat map from FinViz. Every equity in the S&P500 is down, with the exceptions of Coke, ACE Insurance, a freight company and two utilities. Merrill Lynch, with a buyout offer which started the day at a 50% premium, closed out just positive for the day as BoA’s stock tanked (down 21%). A relative value trade would have pulled something out of that announcement.

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Product and marketing in the start-up

One of the things that surpises me about European tech companies vs Valley ones is the amazing shortage of the discipline of product management in European companies. To me product management is the critical role in a tech company–and sometimes, but not always, the de facto mantle of the CEO. It is also what perform the function of marketing in a young company until you get to a much later, more mature stage.

Marketing is a strategic function about delivering customers what they want. It isn’t a jazz hands and rubber chicken and t-shirts. It is the heart of successful companies–Unilever, Coke, Apple, Google. A company which gave its customers what it wanted (Yahoo) started to give its customers what its CEO wanted (entertainment) and went from being yesterday’s Google to today’s Yahoo.

In young technology companies, marketing is product. Because if you can’t get people to love your product without persuading them that they should or need to love it, you will never get to a stage of sustainable economics.

Product management is the thing that ensures you give your customers something they love. It is also about bridging what our current and future customers want us to do; what our company wants to be; and what we are capable of doing. As David Packard, P in HP said:
‘”Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
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Knife. Falls. Don’t catch.

Yesterday made ugly reading around the world’s market.

Are we out of it? Look at this chart . I am no chartist, so take these as words for an amateur. But looking at the length and depth of the 2000-2004 bear market, we can get a sense for how long the cycle lasted last time. Even after a hideous day like yesterday, the main market indicators are still not bottoming out. There might be bouts of optimism but there is more volatility (which means sharp drops) ahead.
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Search engines today do what they currently do 100%!

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase, source unknown Mike Arrington is rightly dumbfounded to hear that search is 90% done. Marissa Mayer said as a much to the LA Times.

From one perspective–where you look at search and the solution to it as being indexing document and making statistical connections from queries to documents–perhaps the game nearly is done. In other words, if you measure the success of search engines against the yardstick of what they already do, then I guess they are there.

In the same way that the grand ocean liners were the pinnacle, nay the 95% done of transatlantic travel, until, er, the jet age. Or that Bessie, my trusty shire horse, was the best way of getting from London to Windsor on a rainy day.

This is setting up for a classic Clayton Christensen disruption where the way in which the problem is framed limits the way in which resources are allocated to crack the problem (from an R&D stand point) and then suffocates it (from a commercialisation standpoint).

Forgetting for a moment what other companies are trying, start from the stand point of the end user.

I have been at internet user for seventeen years (nearly half my life), I remember the days of Archie, Veronica, Gopher (but no Jughead). And having worked with two search companies, even today I will struggle with certain types of search queries:
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Internet still booming! (hurrah)

Telegeography’s latest data shows that Internet traffic even in the mature US market is still growing at 45% per annum, although capacity is growing marginally faster.

Most interestingly, growth in traffic is now driven by end user applications, reinforcing the primacy of video.

Traffic growth is no longer driven chiefly by gains in broadband penetration, but rather by growing traffic volumes per user. The leading source of traffic is HTTP-based traffic, thanks to web-based video services like YouTube, Hulu and iTunes, rather than peer-to-peer (P2P) services.

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New speed test for bandwidth nerds

Yah. I am a bandwidth nerd. So always delighted to come across a new speed test tool with lots of diagnostics. I introduce the VisualWare speedtest which comes replete with some satisfying technical reports .

MySpeed - Speed Test, London UK
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Streaming ups the ante for video

BBC iPlayerImage via Wikipedia Three different stories showing that streaming is upping the ante for video.
Martin points out that streaming is killing p2p. PlusNet’s data shows 170% YoY while P2P downloads are down 8% YOY.
Nic points out that Amazon is extending its streaming service to Macs and TV albeit with a hideous price point.
Finally, Marketing Charts points out online TV viewing has doubled in two years. The data shows streaming is used by 68% of viewers versus streaming (used by 38%)
Fundamentally, streaming is the most expensive of all of these but how much more than p2p isn’t clear. ISPs talk about the BBC Iplayer because it is manifestly popular–if Joost was popular they might complain about Joost. That fact they don’t has less to do with the differences in network architecture (p2p was a bit of pink elephant) and more to do with the success of the iPlayer.
Streaming is much less expensive if you can use a protocol like Multicast, which Inuk Networks (one of my companies) does very successfully–and is able to deliver much higher picture qualities and far less jitter than some of the p2p based internet TV broadcasting services. And anyone using iPlayer on Virgin or Be will be used to the 90s style buffering icons that interrupt every one of Duncan Bannatyne’s quips.

Perhaps the biggest lesson is less about the technology but more about the consumer experience. The BBC iPlayer works because it is a beautiful application with a great set of content. It took off not with the weird Kontiki-powered thing (which they may not even use anymore) but when Flash-video made the user-interface friction free.

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Startup collective wisdom: legal fees

Thought it would be useful for start-up entrepreneurs to be able to collectively look at relevant benchmarks for key cost-lines and activities in their business. These benchmarks and the judgement around them normally only come from experience–which is time consuming. So let’s save a little and share our knowledge anonymously.

First one up: legal fees during fund raising. (Survey takes about 60 seconds)

Please contribute as much information as you feel comfortable. If you have data for more than one round, enter each round individually and then send the data in. You can then reload the form to enter the second round.

Thanks to the first five respondents! (In only ten minutes!).

Peer through the Johari window

The Johari window is a tool from the world of cognitive psychology to ‘help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships’.

Courtesy of business balls

Courtesy of business balls

I find it quite a useful tool in any sort of group situation. The Johari window is a two-by-two matrix that outlines qualities that you believe you either have or don’t; and that other people believe you either have or don’t.
The object of the exercise is to understand better your own self-awareness, as well as understand how others see you, and what elements of facade exist (things you think you exhibit but no-one else does). Most useful in a group situation.
If you think of people you know with real impact–people who make a room stop still with their presence–you are probably dealing with those with Johari window’s wide open. Enough, perhaps, to drive a truck through. These are people who know who they are and how the world sees them.
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just testing the iphone app

I just wonder if I can bother to type it