Thursday, November 29, 2007

Launching a Start-up is Hard Work...

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately I've been working my a$$ off on my latest venture,

It's hard work getting a new site off the ground!

I know that may seem obvious to most folks, and being that this is my ump-teenth start-up venture, you'd think I'd be better at it by now. But seriously, each and every time I've ever gotten up to the "2 weeks and counting" phase of a launch, I just get overwhelmed with the "detail work" that needs to get done.

Most people think you spec the app out, get it designed, get it built and then launch...very simple. But the reality of the situation is much, much different. The saying, "the devil's in the details" doesn't even begin to do this process justice. In the last 2 weeks alone I've had to do everything from tightening up the copy on the site's registration page to integrating the weekly newsletter with our e-mail service provider.

Not to mention having our developers try to catch all the last minute bugs, optimize SQL queries and load test the app...I've gotta say, I'm exhausted. I almost need a vacation after all this, which is obviously impossible considering the REAL work starts after the launch.

I'm planning on posting a bit more this weekend.

I really want to write the follow up post to my Wall Street Sales Strategies and I'm dying to weigh in on some of the Facebook Beacon news.

Hope everybody is doing well!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mixed Feelings on Facebook's new Ad platform

So yesterday at ad:tech Facebook announced its long awaited ad platform. Here's a quick recap:

New services:

  • Beacon - Beacon gives site owners the ability to integrate a user's actions on their own site into Facebook's newsfeeds. So if you have a customer who is also a Facebook user and they buy something on your site, it'll get displayed in their news feed.

  • Social Ads - The social ads tool allows you to take Beacon a step further by having these "social actions" broad casted to people outside of your customer's network on Facebook. It's also highly targeted - you can target by gender, age, location and even political affiliations.

  • Facebook pages - Now businesses can set up a page on Facebook where they can recruit fans/customers (new phrase: fansumer), and use FB as a new point of contact. The pages allow you to set up photo areas, discussion boards, a wall and even a messaging center so it's easy to keep in touch with your following. It's basically a souped up version of Facebook Groups.

  • Insight - Facebook Insight is an analytical tool that helps you measure your reach and penetration into your target market on Facebook.
I must say, it's a pretty comprehensive suite of features and it definitely shows some forward thinking on Facebook's part.

But in light of Google's OpenSocial announcement last week, I don't see this as being a killer app.

If you look at the argument I laid out in my last post, you'll quickly see how Google has the potential to cripple Facebook's ad platform. I mean, all Google has to do is get the rest of the social networks (and it's network of existing publishers and advertisers) to line up behind a new social ad platform, and then POOF, Facebook's value is greatly diminished. It becomes just another site to advertise on as opposed to a category killer like Google's AdWords.

Just as a side note, Google's AdWords is a category killer for a number of reasons. It's ease of use is just one reason, but the real value is in Google's reach (the network effect). The more publishers that serve Google's ads the more valuable the service becomes to an advertiser because they no longer have to reach out to all those publishers individually. The same will apply to any social ad platform that Google creates.

So all in all, Facebook showed some real vision due to the fact that this was a platform that had probably been in development for quite some time (definitely prior to the Google announcement). But they'll have to do a lot more if they want to protect their castle.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Snackbyte: Google's Best Move Yet - OpenSocial

Google's latest move in its fight to dominate all things web is one of its savviest moves yet.

With the launch of the OpenSocial platform Google basically commoditized the online application platform space.

Everyone expected Google to roll out a social network of its own, or make a bigger push for Orkut in the States. But instead Google decided to redefine the value proposition, side stepped the all out battle with entrenched competitors (i.e. Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and instead created a universal platform for all social networks.

Google has effectively become the fabric that will weave all of these networks together. Social networks have effectively become "portable."

Here's how:

If an application can function and reside on all platforms (thus, pulling data from each) then this application can effectively unify a user's social networking experiences. So my data on Facebook will now be accessible on MySpace or LinkedIn. This adds a tremendous amount of value to my web experience without requiring me to become loyal to a new brand - in this case, Google.

Here's where the money comes in:

Let's say Google decides it's going to leverage its reach in the advertising and publishing markets in order to start a type of "product news feed" - similar to Facebook's Porject Beacon, but on a global scale. So if I buy something on Amazon, then all of my friends on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn will know.

If I'm an influential member of these networks then it might cause other people to buy this book as well. Google can then take a cut of the revenue generated through the sale or on a CPC basis and even decide to cut me in (the same way it does its network of publishers). This would be phenomenal and truly be the first global application to monetize social networking.

I can't wait to see what Facebook's next move is!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Financial Sector Ravages the Dow

I hate to be the one to say it, but I told you so!

If you take a look at my "Beware the Banks and Brokers" piece I wrote back in September, you'll see just what I'm talking about.

Today we saw massive downgrades across the financial space - starting with Citigroup (NYSE: C) and ending with the Dow dropping over 362 points!

Like I said in my Sept. 19th post - the banks/brokerages (Wall Street) are always several months ahead of the curve. They feel the brunt of an economic downturn first, then it spreads to the rest of the market.

Now, this isn't to say that we'll have an all out crash like 2001 - my feeling is that if anything we'll see a mild dip in economic activity and capital investments.

My main concern for my fellow entrepreneurs is if this will trickle down to private equity financings as well. We've obviously been experiencing a bit of a bubble on the private equity front as of late - pre-money start-up valuations haven't been this high in over 6 years and VC activity is continuing to rise as money gets cheaper and cheaper.

I think we'll come out of this just fine but overall I feel that financing activity could start to see a dip as next Summer approaches. That still leaves time to get some money together but I would definitely be looking to keep my burn low, look for creative marketing strategies and execute my a$$ off! So pretty much what most start-up junkies have been doing, but this time leave "getting funded" out of your business plan :)