Monday, January 30, 2006

Not so fresh off the press...

Went to Entrepreneur 27 on the Stanford campus this weekend to listen to pitches from nine up and coming start-ups founded by recent college dropouts - their words not mine :) (, Skobee and PlaceSite are some examples). Robert Scoble of Microsoft fame and Michael Arrington from TechCrunch were both there taking stock as well. Both of them do a great job summarizing the event on their blogs, so I'll avoid re-iterating the obvious. That said, some general observations from the event:

1) I was surprised by how young the entrepreneurs were (given Entrepreneur 27 is all about founders below age 27 that shouldn't have surprised me) but also with the quality of their business models. It wasn't just all me2 Web 2.0 (UTOSLOW!) plays... there were actual strong points of differentiation. Here's a good example of that. at first blush feels very circa 1999. They offer free and premium online hosting (1G->15g). That said, they showed me a little Ajax-enabled app on their Google homepage. It allows you to access your files directly from an Ajax window (files automatically backed up from your harddrive), essentially porting your files to any site/point of access. The service also integrates RSS, sharing, tagging... the general Web 2.0 paradigm. It's online file storage with a web service layer... Cool.

2) Some of the concepts could actually be materially impactful to eBay. Spoke with one company, LicketyShip, that's integrating retail availability with courier services to generate immediate pick-up and delivery for products. Imagine combining this service with the 500M items on eBay and what impact that would have on local search and purchase of those items.

3) Web 2.0 apps are now going off-road, with services from Flagr and Skobee respectively integrating wireless and email directly to on-site tagging. Flagr lets you build map concepts (like "San Jose Hot Spots" - no I've never been to one), share them with friends and build tags to specific locations, all via phone. Skobee is taking the online invitation downstream, converting email responses on invites into tags on the site. These guys get that the ultimate premise of web services isn't to lock users to a specific site, but to allow them to access and write data from any modality or from any source.

I've essentially done exactly what I said I wouldn't do, repeat more detailed summaries, so I'll stop. It's great to see, however, how web services in general are continuing to shape up (especially in relation to eBay). One good example of this is Saved Search Pro (to be clear they weren't at the event, I just think the endgame is interesting). It's a fairly simple concept (saving favorite searches) but integrates tagging, shared searches, and popularity ranking (via helpfulness ratings). With enough saved searches this could ultimately drive very refined searches for end-users that key on tags and popularity rather than just general keyword matching algorithms. Think Digg for eBay...

Anyways, thats the wrap on the new start-ups. Robert wrote his blog summary during the event, me a couple days after. So... if you like 2 day old news, you're at the right place ;)


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