Posts from June 2011

Content Shifting

I'm giving a talk at Read Write Web's 2Way Summit next monday and tuesday in NYC. My talk is on content shifting, something I blogged about in January of this year. Here are some examples of content shifting from that blog post:

I found this amazing artist yesterday on SoundCloud named James Vincent McMorrow. Here's his new record called Early In The Morning. I'm listening right now on my laptop, but I really want to listen on our Sonos system.

I saw that the Black Keys played SNL last night. I found the video on YouTube and sent it to Boxee so I can watch on the big screen.

I heard some great music on Sirius XMU in the car yesterday afternoon. I want an easy way to get it from there onto

I saw the DOJ court order to Twitter regarding Wikileaks yesterday onTechCrunch/Scribd. I want to get the document on my iPad so I can read it on the couch in the family room.

 I want to showcase a dozen or more examples of this kind of content shifting in my talk on Monday. I'm planning on putting the talk together over the weekend. I've love to get examples from the AVC community to include in the talk. Please leave them in the comments.


Some iPad Help Please

I want to upgrade my original iPad's system software from 3.2 to 4.0. I've recently added some apps that don't run on 3.2.

The problem is I have no idea what mac laptop I used to setup that iPad. I think it may be gone to be honest. But the iPad wants me to connect it to the laptop that was used to set it up so it can do a software upgrade.

What is the best and fastest way to solve this problem? Should I do a factory reset on the iPad? If I do that will I lose all the apps I've got installed on the iPad? Is there another option?

I'm so confused why I need to connect an iPad to a laptop in the first place. Since that first setup, I've never connected the iPad to a laptop. I just download apps over the air and use them. Why can't an iPad do an over the air software upgrade like Android? Ugh.

#Random Posts

The Hacking Education Contest

On Monday I wrote about contests as a way to raise money. They are also a way to raise the profile of you and/or your startup. This post is about a developer contest that is in the latter camp.

This blog community has adopted DonorsChoose as our charity. Every fall we do a month long fundraiser for them. These events have been very successful and we've even done meetups between our community and DonorsChoose.

The connection between DonorsChoose and the tech startup/entrepreneurial community has always been strong. In fact, DonorsChoose is a startup. The founder Charles bootstrapped the service, then raised a "venture round" which was designed to take the non-profit to "profitabilty." That plan has worked perfectly and the reason I am on the DonorsChoose board is that it reminds me of the startups we work with more than a non-profit.

That connection gets even stronger with the DonorsChoose Hacking Education Contest. DonorsChoose has opened up most of the data on their platfrom via APIs. And it is encouraging developers to use those APIs to build apps that improve education in America. Here are some suggested apps they'd like to see people build:


  • Identify a trend in the resources requested at that could change a city or state education budget. For example, "Elementary school teachers in Chicago are submitting 40% more projects requesting microscopes."
  • Show a pattern in classroom projects that could impact how and what we teach children. I.e., "These are the 10 novels most requested by high school teachers in low-income communities."
  • Rank what people care about most when supporting classrooms in need. A catchy project title? High poverty rate? Field trips rather than technology?


  • Reinvent the classroom project discovery experience to provide more serendipity, personalization, or casual exploration. (Etsy has more than five different ways to browse through their inventory.)
  • Create the first ever hyper-local giving app for mobile phones. I.e., an app which shows you classroom project requests from schools that are close to your current location. Or create a mobile app which uses a pivot other than geography to present classroom projects!
  • Invent a way for people to engage with classroom project requests before they're ready to open their wallets. About 2% of visitors to make a donation. What can the other 98% of visitors do for fun?

There are seven categories of prizes (based mostly on technology used) and one "Big Winner."  The Big Winner gets to attend a taping of The Colbert Report with three friends and meet Stephen Colbert and accept a trophy from him. That's what I call getting attention.

The deadline for app submission is June 30th. So if this is interesting to you, you need to get on it right away. Here are the details.

#hacking education#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

A Couple Of Good Events Next Week

It has gotten to the point that there is an event (or multiple events) every day in NYC for the tech startup crowd. This week is particularly crazy with Internet Week. But I want to highlight a couple good ones next week:

The Internet Society is holding a one day conference next Tuesday called What Kind Of Internet Do You Want? Featured speakers include Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf. The conference costs $25 for Internet Society members and here's a little secret – membership in the Internet Society is free. So if you are interested in the technical, social, and regulatory architecture of the Internet, this should be a very interesting event.

The Silicon Alley Talent Fair is happening next Thursday at the Armory on 69th Street. This is the self organized response to the "official" talent fair that a host of companies could not get into. The organizers of this event have done a great job and there will be a lot of interesting activities at this event. Here's a link for employers who want to attend. And here's a link for talent that wants to attend. If you are looking to land a job in the startup sector in NYC, you should really attend this event.


Financing Options: Contests/Prizes/Accelerator Programs

This is the second in a series of posts about financing options for startups. By "financing" I mean obtaining cash to fund your business. There are all sorts of strategies to avoid needing funding, but this series is not about them.

I did not have this option in my original list but it was suggested so many times in the comments that I added it. This is an option that has become a lot more available to entrepreneurs in recent years. There are so many programs out there that target entrepreneurs where the winner(s) is/are awarded cash prizes or small equity investments.

The accelerator programs are probably best known to this audience. TechStars, Seedcamp, DreamIT, Startl, SeedStart, ER Accelerator, and the Fintech program are all active in NYC. Y Combinator is the pioneer of this kind of program. And there are similar programs all over the country now. These programs will require you and your founding team to relocate to a set location for around three months and participate in a program. The equity investment varies but is generally in the range of $25,000 to $30,000. The equity you will give up for this cash is usually in the range of 5-6%.

I believe the accelerator programs are excellent for teams that are just getting started and that have not had a lot of startup experience. The money is usually sufficient to fund the founding team for the three month program and often can last a bit longer. But the biggest value comes from the mentoring and the opportunity to pitch to a large group of angel investors on the last day of the program.

Contests and prizes have been around for a lot longer but there has also been an explosion of them in recent years. One of my favorite is the NYC Big Apps contest where developers compete to build the best app that uses data from the NYC open data project. The winning team gets a prize of $10,000 with no equity dilution (total prizes are $40,000). The winners of NYC Big Apps the past two years have gone on to create real businesses with funding and user traction.

The company that coordinates NYC Big Apps is called ChallengePost. They coordinate many of these contest/prize programs. When I visited ChallengePost just now, I learned that Lollapalooza is running a contest to create apps for concerts. There are $5000 of prizes available.  There is stuff like this going on all the time.

I just participated in the judging of the Disrupt NYC contest. The winner Getaround recieved a check for $50,000. Again there is no equity dilution for that cash.

You are not likely to fund your business all the way to cash flow breakeven on the money you get from an accelerator program or winning a contest (although I'm sure someone has done it). Funding startups is like climbing the stairs. You have to go up the first stair to get to the second one. These kinds of events/programs can be a great first or second stair for an entrepreneur. It can give you the money (and connections) you need to get going and get somewhere and set yourself up for the next funding source. And we will continue next week with the next post in this series.

#MBA Mondays

Investing In The Cultural Revolution

In a talk with Erick Schonfeld at Disrupt a couple weeks ago, we talked about what is coming next for the Internet. Erick asked me what I thought was coming after the infrastructure and application phases of the Internet. I talked about Carlotta Perez' work and suggested that if past technological revolutions are any guide, that we are in for cultural revolution next.

A scan of Techmeme this morning suggests that it there are certainly signs of it out there:

Techmeme #1
Techmeme #2
Techmeme #3
Techmeme #4

The Internet is not controlled by anyone or anything. It is a highly distributed global network that has at its core the concepts of free speech and individual liberty. This ethos, which includes but is not limited to hacker culture, is in many ways at odds with big companies, instiutions, and governments which seek to control, regulate, and "civilize" the Internet.

In the middle east, we've seen the power of the Internet in the Arab Spring. I believe we are in for a lot more of that sort of thing and that it will not be limited to repressive governments, but to all large institutions that seek to control people and their free will. This is the cultural revolution that I referred to in my talk with Erick at Disrupt.

I think investors should be aware of what is coming and seek to invest in it where it is investable. I'm curious what the AVC community thinks of this investment thesis and where we should be looking for opportunities that fit into this thesis.

#VC & Technology

Check In Apps vs Audience Measurement Panels

I spent a decade as an early stage investor and board member of comScore. In that capacity I learnt a lot about using representative samples to develop broad based market research on media viewing. This is the approach used by Nielsen in television and comScore in internet. Both companies assemble representative panels of users and then scale up the data to predict media viewing at large. There is a lot of data science involved in this approach. Both companies have built large and valuable franchises with this technique.

Yesterday, I came across a blog post by our portfolio company Get Glue where they correlated their "checkin data" with film box office results. For those that don't know, Get Glue is the most popular entertainment checkin app for mobile and web. Get Glue has well over a million users and had over 4 million entertainment checkins in April. So the question is – can a checkin app be a representative sample for the purposes of measuring and predicting entertainment product performance?

Here's a chart of checkins vs. box office results:


Get Glue goes on to explain the math behind this graph:

As you can see, there is a clear correlation between check-ins and box office dollars. The gray dotted line represents the average relationship between the two. For the mathematically inclined, to get the trend line we performed a simple linear regression and obtained an R2 value of 0.95. In other words, 95% of the variance in the data was explained by the trend line. A perfect correlation would have an R2value of 1.0.

I think this is fascinating. Get Glue also gets checkins to TV shows and music listening. It occurs to me that they could, with a fair bit of targeted recruiting and data cleansing, get to a fairly decent audience measurement service. I continue to be amazed by the power of the checkin.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Some Stats On Yesterday's Post

AVC on June 1, 2011:

Total Unique Visitors: 45,055 (google analytics)

Total Visits: 47,633 (google analytics)

Total Page Views: 54,105 (google analytics)

Total Comments on AVC: 415 (disqus)

Total Comments on Hacker News: 175

Total Social Media Mentions: 1,453 (disqus)

Top Refers: Hacker News (18,651 visits) and Twitter (~12,000 visits)

It was a big day, I think the biggest in the history of this blog. It may take me a day or two to make it through all of the comments, but I will.

Clearly this is a hot topic. It's got me hot and it's got a few others hot too. That's a good thing. It's clear that we need to do more to fix the software patents mess and the reaction to yesterday's post is a strong signal to me on that front.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Posting Audio On The Go To Tumblr Via SoundCloud

I always love it when our portfolio companies work together to make something great. Today, Tumblr and SoundCloud are rolling out audio posting to Tumblr via SoundCloud. Here's what Tumblr's David Karp has to say about it and here's what SoundCloud's David Noel has to say about it.

There are a ton of great features (like searching SoundCloud right from the Tumblr music posting interface) but what I love most about this is that I can now capture sounds when I'm out and about and post them directly to Tumblr from my phone.

I did that today on the subway on my way back to the office. I recorded the subway announcement as we were pulling into the 23rd street station on our way to Union Square. Here it is:

Next stop: union square at Subway by fredwilson

And right from the SoundCloud android app, I was able to autopost it to my Tumblr. Within seconds, I had 10 likes on Tumblr. That's pretty cool.

You can also post to Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare from SoundCloud's mobile apps but Tumblr is the first social platform to allow for playing the audio natively in the service. I hope the others will add that because its so great to hit play and start listening.

Thanks Tumblr and SoundCloud for making something great that I've wanted for a long time.