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Month: January 2012

1/31/12

1/31/12

Good morning, All,

First, it’s that time again – our next Find A Cofounder is now scheduled for February 6th, with Charlie O’Donnell (Brooklyn Bridge Ventures), Mac Lipscomb (New York Angels), Jeff Zerofsky (‘wichcraft) and Cheryl Yeow (City Pockets). Besides this panel of investors and entrepreneurs, each startup will get a chance to pitch their idea to the crowd to maximize their chances of finding the right person for their startup. Register here: http://fac8.eventbrite.com/ and speaking of launching a new company, yes, we will be bringing along our low fat, healthy cookies and truffles for you to sample and purchase. Product catalog here: http://bit.ly/AuakzX No, we haven’t officially launched yet but still, marketing. So important, eh?

Jack Dorsey was 30 when he launched twitter, which is to say that he had some life experience before founding a company that would have a major impact on the global landscape. We mention this because of last week’s announcement that twitter would remove content, on a country by country basis. The company went on to say that they would also “give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.” (Tweets still must flow: http://bit.ly/A4KhF6) Larry Page and Sergei Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg founded Google and Facebook right out of school (yes, we know Zuck pulled a Gates never graduated) and built global companies without the benefit of having developed world views, and give no thought to the personal rights or privacy of their users. All your base are belong to us? This may well be their Achilles heel. (Google, Facebook, Privacy — And You: http://tcrn.ch/y7kl6O 7 Big Privacy Concerns For New Facebook and Open Graph (http://on.mash.to/zmSgXc). We leave you with this from Mark Birch: Twitter Censorship and Misplaced Outrage. And he’s right: twitter is being completely transparent and they’re far from being the evil empire. As he says in closing, “If we want to direct our anger, we would be better off focusing it on the real perpetrators of censorship.  And you do not have to look much farther than our own government and old guard, incumbent industries that look upon technology as more of a threat or a mystical art rather than the source of innovation, the savior of our economy, and a bastion of freedom worldwide.” http://bit.ly/xnFhKv Take note, Larry, Sergei and Mark as you so readily relinquish everyone’s privacy without any regard at all to the big picture – or the long term consequences. You won’t be on top forever and some day the very policies you implement today may well come back to bite you in the proverbial. Time to grow up, boys  – and stop playing firemen with each other. Onward and forward. Read More...

1/24/12

1/24/12

Good morning, All, and happy Year of the Dragon to you!

Among the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, the Dragon is the only mythical animal, believed to be accompanied by thunder and rain; dragons move like lightning and whirlwinds – all powerful yet totally unpredictable. Hmmm. It is commonly believed that dragon years are lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it’s earned, borrowed or received as a gift. In ancient China, the celestial Dragon represented  power. Today, it is the ultimate auspicious symbol signifying success and happiness.   May the celestial Dragon bring good luck to everyone. And we have dragons out there to slay:

Last week Jerry Yang exited the board of Yahoo; the online community rallied in record numbers and managed to get a postponement on the SOPA and PIPA votes – both of which had pretty much been considered shoo-ins for passage (The largest online protest in history, by numbers: http://sopastrike.com/numbers/); and Kodak filed for bankruptcy (What Happened To Kodak’s Moment? http://tcrn.ch/yv8Fz9) These three things are not unrelated: video did kill the radio star, and the big media companies know it. Two more thing happened to which attention must be paid: megaupload was shut down and all of its assets seized, without due process, and former Senator and current MPAA chief Chris Dodd went on Fox News to explicitly threaten politicians who accept MPAA campaign donations that they’d better pass Hollywood’s favorite legislation…or else.” Full article is here: http://bit.ly/ya94fq. Of course, there are lobbying restriction on former congressmen (Why Chris Dodd Failed With His SOPA/PIPA Strategy http://bit.ly/wmBP2K ) and since the online community managed to get together, it may be time we stayed together and cry enough already, while we’re still have a voice (A petition to the White House: Investigate Chris Dodd and the MPAA for bribery after he publicly admitted to bribing politicians to pass legislation: http://bit.ly/yPtkB8). But wait! There’s more: there’s ACTA, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that is more sweeping and Draconian than either SOPA and PIPA, and spans virtually all countries of the developed world. The US – and many other countries – have already signed on, and it’s now awaiting Senate approval – and the Obama administration has aggressively pursued it and strongly supports it. Full article is here: (If You Thought SOPA Was Bad, Just Wait Until You Meet ACTA http://onforb.es/y5oQtD) To sign the petition to stop it: http://bit.ly/ygUaWt – and make sure to also get the word out. We cannot let this slip under the radar. Jerry Yang’s departure from the company he founded and the demise of Kodak due to technology may in fact signal a time for a changing of the guard. It’s time we stop referring to ourselves as the tech community and become a unified tech industry and enough of politics-walletics as usual. In the words of Wikipedia: “Thank you for protecting Wikipedia. We’re not done yet.” This is the year for slaying dragons – and sending a dragon slayer or two of our own to Washington. Onward and forward. Read More...

1/17/12

1/17/12

Good morning, All,

Heads up, NYC: there’s an Emergency NY Tech Meetup/SOPA/PIPA Demonstration in New York on January 18. It’s so that “we can publicly demonstrate our collective dismay at the unprecedented attack currently being made on the Internet and our industry. We will gather at 12:30 pm outside the offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand at 780 Third Avenue (at 49th Street). RSVP here: http://nytm.org/sos .” Yes, SOPA was supposedly killed by the House of Representatives (House Kills SOPA: http://exm.nr/wdW6D8), but as of the time of this writing, we’re not sure if it was killed or sidelined, and PIPA is still alive and well. Chuck Schumer co-sponsor of PIPA, and his office believe that the internet needs to be censored (NYC Startup Founder Says Schumer’s Office Told Her the Senator ‘Is In Favor of Censoring the Internethttp://bit.ly/zCdi9W), while SOPA’s author is himself guilty of copyright violation (The Villain Behind SOPA, Rep. Lamar Smith: Copyright-Violating Hypocrite? http://bit.ly/wMmk6e). Let’s not lose sight of the fact that our lawmakers have taken to passing legislation – and exempting themselves from it, thereby placing themselves outside of the law. Why is it OK for lawmakers not to have to adhere to the laws that they themselves legislate? This is as troubling as SOPA and PIPA themselves.

We digress. Hollywood has been rife with sequels, prequels, remakes and animated films for a long time now. Box office receipts are down.  Cable companies have been gouging consumers for years, and people have been fleeing for tech-based options.  Network television has devolved to a large part into reality programming – cheap to produce, but very little upside in syndication, which is where they make much of their money. And the major news outlets have seen their audiences defecting for years – you must have noticed that this story has been widely underreported in the mainstream press.  These industries have stopped innovating, and more and more eyeballs have migrated online. Make no mistake about it:  PIPA is censorship by any other name and they’re just the beginning. Once the precedence has been set, they can shut anyone down. The word about these two bills spread via the online media and twitter. Who do you think they’ve got next in their sites? As Fast Company noted (Remain Diligent: SOPA And PIPA Must Be Squashed, Not Changed: http://bit.ly/xtghkl), “this is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation ever introduced in Washington. It will not only strip us of many of the freedoms (and websites) that we currently hold dear, but will also set a precedent that the US Government controls the internet. We’ve seen what has happened in the Middle East and Asia when governments meddle with the internet. It cannot happen here.” Onward and forward. Read More...

1/10/12

1/10/12

Good morning, All,

Last week we attended the preview of the next class of ER Accelerator startups – and were quite impressed at the caliber of the companies chosen (ER Accelerator Announces Class of Winter 2012: http://tnw.co/ycfo6i). We are admittedly a mentor in the program; it’s early days, and of course, time will tell. One thing did strike us: that these companies do have paths to revenue. Then again, this is New York, and in New York, we do mean business. We look forward to seeing what they build and it being a new year, being there gave us pause to look back as well. At the formerly much-touted Groupon, whose stock has fallen below its IPO price, as well as Zynga, whose stock price is going down, down, down – so far – and is nearly already 20% lower than its IPO price.

There hasn’t been much mention of the ‘b’ word yet this year (yes, bubble): the year is still young. We’re not big on predictions, but there are a few rules you might want to keep in mind as you forge bravely forward into this clean slate:
1. Don’t make a resolution – make a plan. And if you come upon a fork in the road, well, in the words of Yogi Berra, take it. At least consider it. It may be there for a reason.
2. Build a real business – something that’s needed and sustainable; that has a large market and actually fills a market need. Do you have a company, or a feature? Always a good question to keep in mind. VCs do. And you don’t always want to depend on the vaguaries of investors. They can be a fickle lot.
3. Bootstrapping may be the key to survival, but not to growth. Prove your model. Then take the investment. You’ll no doubt get a better valuation and above all, keep it real: THE BILLION-DOLLAR CLUB: 12 Startups With Skyrocketing Valuations. Do they deserve it? Some do, no doubt and again, time will tell: http://read.bi/pJomCl
4. The barriers to entry  for doing a startup are down. Lean startup, faster/first to market, fine, use whatever buzzwords you’d like, but remember: the rules of economics are still immutable – and far from virtual. If you’re living on – and depending on – borrowed money, unless you’re one of those rarities that comes along that is too big to fail, thank you, twitter, but the twitters of the world are the exception than the rule, so don’t bank on it – literally, or besides living on borrowed money, you may be living on borrowed time. Well, your startup, anyway
5. If at first you don’t succeed – you might be talking to the wrong people. Expand your circle of acquaintances and business contacts. Here’s that word again: NETWORK!
6. If it ain’t fixed, don’t break it. Meaning, again, build a real business, not something based on what we personally like to call grouponomics, which is the concept that the SEC will avert its eyes, the investors will help you to cash out and to hell with the rest. Don’t leave the gate with something half-baked. It detracts from us all and leads to a buh-buh-buh – don’t make me say it. Yes, we are aware that we currently have a bad example at the top of the food chain. Don’t think Congress: think Progress. Read More...

1/3/12

1/3/12

Good morning, All,

First, a very happy 2012 to you and our next SOS+EW+ ER ROOTT breakfast is next week – January 10th, just for the record, and we do limit the number of attendees, so do sign up early. $25 includes breakfast and it’s $30 at the door. To RSVP: http://roottbreakfast3.eventbrite.com/

We’re not big on New Year’s predictions, but our industry seems to like to publish them, ad nauseam, and we’re limiting ours to just one:  Marc Andreessen: Predictions for 2012 (and beyond) 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.” For his predictions:http://cnet.co/uI4s8r Read More...

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