Monthly Archives

October 2006

Holiday

By | Announcement | No Comments

I am off to Brazil on Sunday for a friends wedding and two weeks holiday ūüôā

I am looking forward to showering the ever-patient Mrs B with attention and put in some quality time with my little girl.

All of which means this blog will be kind of quiet until mid-Nov ūüôĀ

Those of you that have commented before should see any new comments automatically approved.¬† For any new commenters, please bear with me, your comments are more than welcome, but I may not be able to review them before I get¬†back.¬† (I get a lot of comment spam so I can’t take approval off.)

 

Relationship investors, directors and management

By | Venture Capital | No Comments

Part of the reason I write this blog is to promote transparency into the venture capital process.¬† That wasn’t something I really expected when I started.

To that end I am posting these links to Peter Rips post¬†on this subject where he links to Munjal Shah’s description of a key strategic decision at his company.¬† Munjal is CEO at Riya, one of Peter’s portfolio companies.

If you are interested in this subject you should read the posts.  The highlight for me is captured in this passage from Munjal:

Most people think a CEO is at the top an can do whatever he wants. This is just not true. While I don’t strictly report to these four, they are my biggest shareholders and it is important that I get their input and support. If they disagree it is important that I hear why and consider it.

That being said, I’ve realized that all too frequently CEOs, let a board drive decisions and then take no responsibility when it fails. For example, “I told the board not go that way, but they did and so now the disaster is their fault.” Or my favorite example, “The board has decided we need to cut staff. Sorry team I fought but I lost.”

Both of these are pure crap. A CEO should always keep the business focused on what he believes will make the most money for shareholders and what he believes is right.

Besides this Munjal and Peter are saying it is important that board members are capable of handling change, able to make time and understand key issues in depth, and having done that to take important decisions quickly.¬† Couldn’t agree more – prevarication and constantly reaching for more information are the enemy of success, but you need to be close enough to your companies to understand the issues and not be afraid of change.

Not much value add from me here (so apologies to readers who have seen Peter’s post already), but these posts contain great insight.

Habbo and Second Life the same?

By | Social networks, Virtual Worlds | 8 Comments

Second life logo     Habbo logo   

Well they are obviously not quite the same, but this post on Techcrunch Uk from Sam has got me thinking that they are not that far apart.

In the post Sam reports that mobileYouth are holding a virtual networking event in Habbo Hotel today.  Check out the post for details, but it is at 2pm today and its free.

This is not very different from the way that many companies are using Second Life.  IBM for example have built five (or so) islands in Second Life and regularly use them to hold meetings as a sort of enhanced video conference facility РI have commented on this before.  The eightbar blog is written by IBMers who are interested in this area and has some interesting stuff on it.  Similarly there is the Harvard classroom I blogged about here.

My point here is that Habbo can be viewed as a kind of Second Life, but with more structure.¬† I don’t think Habbo¬†is a game as there is no real point beyond socialising – so it is identical to Second Life in that respect, the difference is that players are more restricted in Habbo, but at the same time that makes it easier to get started.

In fact once Linden Labs open sources Second Life we might start to see areas within SL that are designed to appeal to more casual virtual worlders by making it easier.

This whole piece is an extension of the Second Life is a social network argument.¬† I’m starting to wonder if the best way to look at the world is to see a continuum¬†running from¬†Second Life through Habbo to MySpace et al (maybe even taking in Stardoll on the way).

HDTV – do people care?

By | HDTV, IPTV, PCTV, TV | 7 Comments

HDTV 

I was at a Screen Digest seminar earlier this week where we discussed the future of high def TV.

They are projecting that by 2010 there will be 12m households in the UK with high def ready TVs, but that only 3m of them will actually be watching high def TV programmes.

A bit of background might be useful РTVs are being sold across Europe as high definition ready Рwhich means that they are capable of showing high definition TV if they are given the high def input, but they will still work if you connect it up to your existing Sky or cable input.  This statistic is telling us that people are buying high definition TVs because they are big and flat, you can hang them on the wall and they look cool.  They are not buying them because they want to watch high definition TV. 

In fact, even though they have forked out a couple of grand for the big high def TV¬†75% of them¬†won’t go the extra couple of hundred so they can watch high def programmes.

People don’t care that much about picture quality.¬† It is as simple as that.¬† YouTube wouldn’t be this successful if they did.¬† Sure when you ask them people say they would like better quality, why not, but for my money the evidence seems to show¬†it just isn’t that important to people.

All of which may mean that IPTV and PCTV arrive sooner rather than later, once broadband quality has improved a bit.  All the extra choice and maybe reduced cost will more than compensate for any reduction in quality.  

PCTV, now that will be disruptive – think Napster for telly.

Music downloads

By | New Media, Web2.0 | 18 Comments

Spiral frog logo       emusic logo  

The music industry just isn’t getting it.¬† From paidcontent last week – Music Industry Goes P2P Lawsuit Crazy: 8,000 announced today,¬†Universal Music Sues Grouper and Bolt.com; $15k per infringement¬†and Universal’s Long Tail Generated 250,000 Downloads in Seven Months.

Get with the programme people!

Getting track costs on legitimate sites down to low levels Рsay 10p per track Рand keeping the DRM to an absolute minimum.  IMHO that is the only way the record industry can preserve any value in the music download market.  This is what eMusic is doing.

As I’ve said before content prices are heading towards zero and the value is going more and more to experiences not products.¬† Even Microsoft are talking about this in terms of their software.¬†

People will pay:

  • For stuff¬† that delivers a fun experience – like gigs
  • For things that bestow identity – like merchandise and ringtones
  • For services like long tail filters that reduce their search costs –¬†I’m not sure how big this market is, but services like Last.fm are generating huge numbers of users

THEY WON’T PAY (much) WHEN THE ALTERNATIVE IS FREE

Record companies doing a King Cnut and believing they can turn the tide are not doing themselves any favours.  Suing your customers is not usually a recipe for long term success either.  That said, they do appear to be having some success Рthe first paidcontent link above says successful suits against large uploaders usually result in fine of around $3,000, which I suspect means they will persist with this strategy for a while.

Spiral Frog recognises this and is an attempt by the record labels to hedge their bets and offer an ad supported download service.  It has been widely panned in the blogosphere but a lot of the criticism seems to stem from the fact that it is supported by the labels.  It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Alternate worlds web3.0???

By | Social networks, Virtual Worlds | 10 Comments

Web1-3 map

I found this map after writing the social nets – virtual worlds come together post, which seems to endorse the thesis.¬† It was on Personalize Media¬†and I found it through Mike Butcher’s mbites.¬† Apologies if the resolution is poor, I think it should be readable.

The more I think about this the more sure I am about it.  In most ways Second Life is best understood as a social network, as are Habbo, Stardoll etc. 

I’m not sure talking about web3.0 is helpful yet, but as Second Life explodes I can see people talking about second generation social networks before too much longer.¬† According to their blog¬†they have just passed 1,000,000 residents and are growing at 1-5% EVERY DAY.

Virtual worlds the next social networks?

By | 3D, Second Life, Social networks, Virtual Worlds | No Comments

Virtual world 

As regular readers of this blog will know I am fascinated by virtual worlds.  My instinct is that the blurring distinctions between real and virtual worlds is the start of something very important.

The inspiration for this post came from speaking with Alex Tew of Million Dollar Homepage fame and got a big kick on from what I learned at the Microsoft Digital Day last week.

According to Virtual Worlds Review virtual worlds have the following characteristics:

1. Shared Space: the world allows many users to participate at once.

2. Graphical User Interface: the world depicts space visually, ranging in style from 2D “cartoon” imagery to more immersive 3D environments.

3. Immediacy: interaction takes place in real time.

4. Interactivity: the world allows users to alter, develop, build, or submit customized content.

5. Persistence: the world’s existence continues regardless of whether individual users are logged in.

6. Socialization/Community: the world allows and encourages the formation of in-world social groups like teams, guilds, clubs, cliques, housemates, neighborhoods, etc.

All of these could apply equally to social networks.

See where this might go?

Second Life is miles better than most social nets for many aspects of self expression, and you can do much more with it.  So bring some of that to MySpace or make it a new network and it will pull users of the others.  You can then go on to do much more by moving real life activities into the social net/alternate world.

At Microsoft they are seeing social networks as an extension of email and IM.  These are all tools that people use to organise their lives.  Some social nets are getting on for being virtual worlds already РCyworld in Korea being a good example.  So seeing virtual worlds and social nets on some kind of continuum makes sense.

I will leave you with a quote from Anne Kirah Рa Microsoft anthropologist.  (This is from memory so apologies Anne if it is out a little.  The message is right.)

We should drop the word virtual.  People experience strong emotions online.  Try telling them they are not real.

Techcrunch UK party and the London Web2.0 scene

By | Entrepreneurs, London, TechCrunch, Venture Capital, Web2.0 | 3 Comments

A number of people have been putting in a lot of hard work trying to create a Silicon Valley style environment in London to foster entrepreneurialism and web2.0.

You are doing a good job guys and gals.  Your work is important.

The catalyst for this post was the Techcrunch UK launch party on Thursday night last week (I was too tired on Friday and had promised to get the Microsoft post out…)

Great event.  Really great.  What I liked was the positive vibe in the room РSam saying that we will all be millionaires kinda captured the spirit Рthings are really exciting at the moment.  There was a good mix there too, entrepreneurs, VCs, and advisors.

Some names.  These people stand out as publicly pushing things forward:

  • Sam Sethi – founder of TechcrunchUK and all round good guy
  • Robert Loch of Internet Peeps
  • Simon Grice of Etribes and the mashup*
  • Mike Butcher of mbites¬†– now chief editor (or something) for TechcrunchUK – last seen walking backwards making contrived video footage at the party on Thursday

Well done also to Olswang for hosting.  We need lawyers helping to push the ecosystem forward.  There was a good post from Fred Wilson (partly) talking about how they help out in the US.

Microsoft going after the internet

By | Advertising, Microsoft, Social networks, Web2.0 | 8 Comments

Microsoft have barely had a mention in this blog so far, which reflects where they are in the internet world.¬† I have just got back from a “Microsoft Digital Day” and they have a¬†BIG DESIRE¬†to make that change.¬† In the words of Steve Balmer, as they came from¬†nowhere in spreadsheets to take Lotus 123 totally out of the market, so they will come from behind in search.¬† And they never give up (or so he claimed).¬† They are doing a similar thing to Sony with the Xbox.¬†Overall I was impressed by the day they put together.¬† Their was a lot of good content on the state of the industry, they get a lot of the important ideas in the web2.0, in particular the need for authenticity and for the user to be respected and in control.¬†Microsoft were commendably low on arrogance.¬†

Also impressive is the level of resource and brain power they have available to understand markets and figure out how to play.  E.g. they flew anthropologists into Japan to re-shape their offering to deal with the fact that pestering people with IM there is rude and characters are difficult to type.  They have also done a lot of research into social nets.  As an entrepreneur you have to back your inspiration to beat their perspiration.  I am always looking to understand the next moves of companies like Microsoft so I can figure out how industries are going to evolve and make smart investments.  For me the key points today were: 

  • Search – as I said above, they are going after this, and the first weapon in their inventory is innovation – I guess we all feel that even Google doesn’t exactly return great results, best we’ve ever had by some margin, but still not great, so there is space for MSFT to do something clever.¬† As Balmer pointed out at the moment there is the crazy situation that the more information (words) you give a search service, the worse the results are (too many false positives).¬† The second weapon is distribution – expect to see MSFT search syndication deals coming.¬† I fear for Yahoo!¬†

  • Microsoft Live – they have¬†a Netvibes type product with some nice advertising features.¬† They have enabled detailed behavioural targeting and have also added a “why did I get this ad” link which clicks through to your profile and allows you to edit it.¬† Shades of the Bebo “tell us what adverts you want to see” idea here.¬† It will be interesting to see how much traction they get, I’m no expert but the¬†underlying platform seemed a bit flat to me.¬†

  • Adcentre (Google Adwords copy)¬†– the demographic targeting capability in Adcentre is resulting in high click through rates and the word from Nick Hynes of SearchWorks (UK market leader in search marketing) was that their product is excellent.¬† So if they get there with search they should be in a good place.¬†

Their determination to dominate this space may push them into making big acquisitions, which would be good news for everyone.  Their acquisition of in game advertising company Massive earlier this year for c$200m could be the first of many. 

The Sun gets a web2.0 facelift

By | Blogging, MySpace, Social networks, Web2.0 | No Comments

Sun Logo 

Murdoch is certainly learning his lessons from MySpace, check out The Sun¬†– it has gone all web2.0.¬† If you can get past the pop-ups and sky scrapers (which tell us they don’t quite get it yet) you will find the ability to comment on many stories, promotion of discussion groups and¬†a MySun section.

The MySun section describes itself like this:

The Sun has always been about its readers and now we want YOU to write for The Sun online. 

Our new My Sun service allows you to publish your rants, reviews and pictures on the site ‚Äď for our world of readers to see!

You are the new Editors of The Sun.

You are the new Editors of The Sun.¬† It doesn’t get much more web2.0 than that.¬† MySun gives you all the stuff you’d expect as well – personalised Sun news homepage, blog, chat etc.

A click through to the discussion boards and comments shows a reasonable activity, so this stuff is getting used as well.

These features are not difficult to add, which makes it all about execution – and there is only one measure of that – traffic.