Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Feedback Forum

So I went to my first feedback forum last night - hosted by Jonah Keegan. The presenters were the co-founders of a new online dating site,

CupidsLab is hoping to take dating to a new level by empowering not only those who are looking to meet that special someone, but by also empowering the lesser known and drastically underappreciated "match maker" population. You all know you have a friend or two out there who has a certain knack for hooking two people up. (NOTE: my previous match maker extraordinaire did such a wonderful job that she ended up matching herself up with me! Good job baby!)

So CupidsLab is going to provide a tool set for empowering the match makers to help them do their "jobs" more effectively.

Last night we all met in a conference room with about 8 other technology entrepreneurs, marketers, journalists and even a VC to listen to some of the challenges CupidsLab is facing. Then everybody started to give feedback...and brainstorm...and give even more feedback.

It was, quite frankly, an AMAZING 3 hours.

You have to understand, I come from a background in traditional finance (brokerage, analysis, etc.) and it is such a rare thing to find people who genuinely want to help each other on Wall Street. Most of the time it's because they either want something immediately in return or because they're working some sort of shady angle.

In any case, last night was the complete opposite of that. We had a room packed with a group of fairly intelligent guys (I'd like to consider myself one of them) who wanted to do nothing more then sip a couple of beers, eat a slice of pizza and brainstorm about business. Not only did CupidsLab come out of it with great ideas and feedback, but it forced me to think through some of the issues I was having with TickerHound in some new ways.

I'll definitely be attending these in the future and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a genuine desire to help other entrepreneurs and learn more about this industry that we're in.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm going, going, back, back, to China, China!

Ok, maybe a Biggy Smalls verse wasn't in order here but that's all I could think of and I'm so damn excited I feel like I could rap about it. So I booked my tickets today for a trip back to the motherland...ok fine, it aint my motherland but I can't help it if I'm an ethnically confused caucasian (just kidding).

But in any case, I loved my first trip to summer of my I'm hoping this one, although shorter, will be just as fun.

I can't wait to get my hands on some naihuangbao:

Or some Beijing-style Huoguo (Hotpot - lit. "Fire pot"):

You have no idea how good this stuff is until you've actually eaten it in China!

So here's my tentative itinerary:

June 19th - Depart for PEK out of Newark
June 20th - Arrive (jet lagged) in Beijing
June 21st - Winston's Wedding!!!
June 22nd - 26th - Chilling, eating, drinking and partying in Beijing (maybe a little work too).
June 26th (evening) - Depart for Shanghai (train of course!)
June 27th - July 1st - Chilling, eating drinking and partying in Shanghai (maybe a little work too).
July 1st (evening) - Head back to Beijing
July 2nd - July 3rd - Eat and buy as many bootlegged DVD's as I possibly can!
July 3rd - Homeward bound!

And since Beijing is 12 hours ahead of New York, I'll leave at Noon on the 3rd (China time) and arrive at 1:30 PM on the 3rd (Eastern time)! Just in the time for the 4th of July the following day - who's better than me?

I hope my Chinese is still up to par - haven't had much opportunity to practice here in the States. It's a damn shame too, I studied it hardcore for 2 years and spent 3 months in China studying it every single day. So if anybody reading this wants to help me get my game back, please drop me a line in the comments.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Wire

For the there are no misunderstandings, confusions or other forms of miscommunication...HBO's The Wire is by far and away the greatest, grittiest and realest crime drama to have ever blessed our televisions. If you want to know what it's really like on:

1. The Streets
2. The police force
3. Back room politics

Then this show is it!

Some may dismiss it as being another voilent, shoot 'em up, cops vs. robbers TV series, but it's much, much more than that. The Wire has taken the American living room and brought it into the street's of Baltimore (the largest open air drug market in the world). I can't begin to describe the depth of this show, nor would my words do it justice if I could.

It must simply be watched, absorbed, re-watched and then watched again.

For those who disagree - I feel sorry for you.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Content and Community

Two of Hagel's 3 C's of the web - Content and Community - are the cornerstone of all User Generated Content (UGC) sites. They are their biggest asset and at the same time their biggest liability - well, maybe not a liability but definitely a challenge.

I mean, think about it:

1. A UGC site's (social networks, blogs, etc.) value is solely predicated on the participation of its members.

2. In some instances like community dating or classified listings sites, there are two classes of users. Think of it like Supply & Demand. On a classified listing site you have those posting ads, but you also need a commensurate amount of people viewing those ads. Like on eBay - you need both buyers and sellers otherwise the site is worthless to both groups.

So here are the inherent difficulties with a model like this:

1. What's the value for an early adopter? In the beginning there's limited content on the site and limited community activity.

2. What if demand (eBays buyers) exceeds supply (eBays sellers) - or vice versa - in a dramatic way?

Those are the two challenges that face most User Generated Content sites.

Here's how TickerHound has addressed some of these issues in the early stages of our Beta period:

With respect to adding value to the early adopters, I've partnered up with - an investing and finance dictionary - basically, I've converted their word/definition items into question/answer records in my database.

So even if nobody is on the site we have a minimum number of questions and answers that at least cover the "ever green" type content (e.g. What's a stock option?, What's the dow jones?, etc.). That doesn't solve the community issues, but it certainly helps with the content (which could keep people there long enough to develop a community). So far it's proven to be fairly successful.

But the supply and demand issues are rough. Too many questions not getting answered and you have a lot of unhappy first time users...and they won't care how great the service "could" be, they'll just walk away. So I'm trying very hard to cultivate the community slowly:

- No intensive marketing just yet
- Writing a weekly newsletter highlighting certain members and their contributions
- Reaching out to "power members" individually to thank them and ask what else we can do to make their experience on the site better.

It's been working well and I'm going to continue doing many of these things as I go forward.

There are other issues that are beginning to creep up, however. Now I have to start thinking about SPAM issues - how can we effectively keep stock scams off the site as traffic begins to build? How do we quickly get SPAM off the site when it does appear? How do we evangelize our community so they'll also help police the site?

These are questions that I - and every other UGC site owner - has to answer if we hope to be successful. That's primarily why I decided to attend a meet-up on Tuesday that's going to be hosted by Cupid's Lab where some other NY tech entrepreneurs are going to meet and discuss some of the very issues I just raised.

Here's to reaching some conclusions on these issues!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TickerHound is on Facebook!

TickerHound is now on Facebook!

You can become a fan of TickerHound on our Facebook company page. Simply click here and then click the Become a Fan link on the right side of the page.

We put up some pictures of TickerHound Head Quarters too - so check it out to see where we work and what we do all day to make TickerHound a great place for you.


The TickerHound Battle Station

Ok fine, it isn't a battle station, but we love our offices nonetheless. So, we figured we'd share some photos of our lovely office space with you today. If you're ever in lower Manhattan please let us know - we're only a couple of blocks off of St. Marks Place and are always up for a cup of coffee with other TickerHounds.

Silicon Alley

The view! Silicon Alley at its finest!

TickerHound conference room

The TickerHound conference room -- where all the planning for world domination (oops, I mean for creating a useful site) begins. :)

George Zhao Technology Guru

George, our technology guru, explaining the finer points of how the site works...go George!

TickerHound office

The WHOLE office!

Wayne Mulligan TickerHound

Wow, we do have some funny looking people working here ;)

We hope you've enjoyed our little tour of the TickerHound office...come back again soon!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Back in the Building!

So I'm finally back and feeling great!

Had an amazing time out on the West Coast - I definitely spent way too much money and time drinking wine, but what the hell, it's not everyday I get to sit in the middle of wine country and sip a glass of vino while the sun is going down.

But now I'm back and ready to get down to business.

My "tech" new year's resolution was to begin blogging more often...once or twice a month just isn't cutting it. The main problem has been lack of time. I've been blogging a lot over at the corporate blog:

That really eats up a ton of time each week.

But I'm in the process of hiring 1 - 2 interns, which will hopefully leave me with more time do other things.

Actually, that reminds me, if you know anybody looking for some part-time internship work please send them my way. I'd prefer a college student with some experience in finance/investing. They can e-mail me at HireMe at TickerHound dot com.

I'll be posting pics from my trip soon - along with a few posts about some of the crazy thoughts that have been racking my brain as of late.

Good to be back!