Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Handsome little devil :)

More pics of my son Damon. 3 teeth with attitude :)

One pic of my daughter caught in the act. She must have learned it from Lisa ;)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Google Payments vs Paypal

Here's a fairly balanced comparison from Bill Burnham between the 'once again' newly introduced Google Payments and Paypal. Main point from the post below:

"One point that I feel compelled to elaborate on a bit more is that Google is apparently the merchant of record in these purchases... In contrast, EBay has done everything they can not to become the merchant of record for transactions on its site... it is a very different approach from EBay and one that promises to make the buying process on Google Base very easy, but in the process also promises to expose Google to a lot more headaches than EBay. It will be particularly interesting to see how they deal with disputes because I don't care what the legal docs say, people are still going to contact them when there's a problem and they are going to be aren't going to be happy when Google says they have no standing because of the 'terms of service'."

Fraud management/control is a critical part of a successful, profitable payment system. Good luck with that G...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

One more thing...

Just to add to my recent post on personalized Ajax-enabled desktops: I think about what my Internet browsing experience was before I started using a RSS reader (Bloglines for me). Before RSS, I would spend split my time on the web doing two things... 1) searching for new content/data via Yahoo/Google/eBay or 2) checking my favorite sites (many of which I had a hard time remembering) for new content.

Now I spend all of #2 using my RSS reader to aggregate content of my choosing. The jump from aggregating news/content to unifying news/content AND services is no real jump at all. Why not combine a Yahoo Search service, eBay Commerce service, Box.net file storage with Meebo IM under one Ajax-enabled personal home page? Add in an RSS reader for content and I now have 95% of my Internet experience captured on one page which I carry with me wherever I go. Unless the big portals open up their home pages to the complete diversity of web services available and let me carve out unwanted content/ads, a complete personalized experience is obviously preferable than one dictated to me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ajax-enabled browsers vs GYM...

Alright. Let me start this off by saying this isn't a super novel thought, but I think its worth (re)mentioning. There's a general question around the business models of services like Meebo and other free Ajax-enabled services that are coming out. While each has intrinsic value to the end-user as an application (email, calender, events, etc), the real opportunity is in owning the end-user Ajax-enabled browser experience.

Consider Meebo. When you sign in to their service, the experience is no different than opening chat on your PC desktop. As Meebo continues to grow their users of Ajax-based cross-platform chat (which is offered for free), those users become more comfortable with Meebo's Ajax-enabled desktop on which chat is just one service. Box.net already offers a simple Ajax widget that gives mobile access to your files (with daily backup from your desktop/pc). If you combined that with Zimbra's email function and Meebo's IM Chat, you've essentially built a personal mobile desktop via Meebo's Ajax browser, accessible globally.

As Ajax-enabled apps (in very short time) are delivered to mobile phones, end-users will be able to build one common interface to the content, services and data of their choosing via an Ajax-enabled browser thats accessible cross platform. Obviously Yahoo, Google and MS are all enabling Ajax widgets on their portal pages in an attempt to lock in users to their specific offering. But it's the efforts of Meebo and other free, killer Ajax-enabled apps which may end up derailing portal pages as the center of end-users' Internet experience. Why clutter your personalized page to the web with services, ads or content that you didn't choose? As web services become increasingly more mainstream, the individual will be able to personalize and select only the content and apps they want (their personalized Internet dashboard). Think of it like an RSS Reader (e.g. Bloglines) for any content, application or service.

Should this happen, the impact on websites or software that don't offer their functionality as a web service would be dramatic. Just another reason for software/service providers (including eBay) to continue building out a rich web service offering...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

E(ngineer) is before M(arketer) in TEAM

Having recovered from my Florida vacation, I'm now in the middle of cranking through a bunch of work at the office. That said, one quick note. My wife spent this weekend over at the NADA conference (NADA = National Auto Dealer Association) wheeling and dealing for another startup she's working on (while I spent my vacation battling it out with the kids :)). She's caught the web services bug as well and as the company evolves and gets more grounded I'll post more on what its doing.

Of the three companies she's founded or been a key executive, this one has probably the best chance for success. (The first company we cofounded announced that Lee Iacocca just became an investor and advisor. Speaks well for the management we brought on that ultimately bought us out... maybe they really did know better ;)). I say this because of the experience we had with Cima Systems and what Lisa experienced on her own with her second company. For comparison sake, the first company was fairly well-funded with 'professional' management, the second completely bootstrapped.

The third company, however, has something which I think is absolutely key to the success of any startup (for those of you considering that jump) - an engineer/designer/product manager crossover as founder.

These days with hosting and bandwidth fairly cheap, open-source code abundant (i.e. low to no software license cost) and new ways of gaining early product distribution (*cough* blogs), by far the biggest expense in a startup is design and development expense. Cima Systems ran into choppy waters with our software distribution model (proprietary client/server software running on 3rd party software licenses that required on-site maintenance - though I think they have switched to a hosted service by now). The second company improved on that with a hosted VOIP service using open-source code for the soft switch, but was dependent on outsourced engineering. Talk about a bind when your working capital is low and you can meet payroll for the month, but don't have enough to fund the next 3-6 months development.

Lisa's third company is starting to gain great traction because the engineer knows how to develop products based on a combination of his own vision AND customer feedback (Henry Ford once stated that if he only listened to what his customers wanted he would have built a faster horse) while leveraging open-source code and web services as a basis. He's got great feel for design and product architecture. And finally, he executes within one standard deviation of a launch date (in the other startups it was closer to three or four :(). Over and above a great product, professional management, top salespeople, a holistic business plan or massive market opportunity, an engineer who is bought-in to a unified strategy and is able to both design and build a product that appeals to at least one key customer, trumps all.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

My Florida vacation

35 degrees in Palm Beach FL tonight. Brr. Spending some time with my Dad and family (I have a 9,8 and 7 year-old bros and sister) so apologies for the lack of posts. Tomorrow spending time at Disney with my daughter, Tuesday at Sea World. Yep. It doesn't get more exciting than this ;)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Yahoo! gets the bug too...

According to CNET Yahoo! is polling its Yahoo Mail users on an incentive program for making Yahoo Search their primary search engine. (Hey Jeffrey - I already use Yahoo Search as my primary search engine. Where's my prize? :))

Giveaways include No Yahoo Ads (pass), Unlimited Yahoo Mail storage (I use 5% of my current Yahoo Mail so pass), five free music downloads (make it 10 and you got a deal!), PC-to-phone calling credit (bruk!), discounted Yahoo Personals subscription (my wife would be ecstatic! pass :P) and 250 frequent flier miles each month (pass). Straight up cash via Paypal works for me too ;)

Btw, is it me or do Google product 'announcements' no longer get the PR love they used to? You would have thought the re-introduction of GBuy or the news that GTalk and GMail were being integrated would have brought the flood of PR and prognostications. This is what happens when you miss a quarter folks. Analysts start looking at the downside as much as the upside...

Amazon gets the bug...

Looks like Amazon is interested in entering the contextual ad network market (story here). It's interesting to see how competitors to Google are approaching the space. Players are surfacing both from the search engine side (with the continuing advancement of vertical sites like Krugle and the launching of Gravee today) and now the ad network side as well (per Amazon above and from startups like Turn from the former head of Altavista Jim Barnett). Forget GBuy Googlers and focus on your core business ;) Now if only Amazon would do something about A9 and Alexa...

I've always wondered why folks like AOL and other major content/traffic providers don't just create their own ad network (albeit they would have to go through a painful transition process which MSN just went through). If you have buyer traffic, sellers/advertisers will come. While Google obviously provides a great hub for advertisers to sell on and publishers to sell through, once a site has reached significant scale, not sure if it makes a whole lot of sense to pay a major portion of the value created from owned traffic to Google. Guess the MSN experience over the next quarter or two should be a clear indicator if this works or not.

Eqo - Skype for your mobile phone

Honestly I don't entirely understand what Eqo is doing (this having read their site and a description of their service). That said, it looks like Eqo is helping enable Skype on mobile phones. Very sweet. What I don't get is whether Eqo is enabling Skype voice chat on the carrier's voice network or on their data network (i.e. are you using voice minutes or not). If its the latter, it's a potential killer app for Skype and Eqo both.

Currently I use a service from Mundu Wireless that gives me interoperable IM on my Treo 650. Essentially it lets you chat across all the major IM services on your Palm OS device and even do a cross-chat between platforms. Hate to say it, but I'm addicted to portable IM. It's great for meetings which run a bit too long (of course that never happens at eBay ;)) or for traffic jams on 680...

Update: Looks like Eqo is just redirecting Skype calls to the mobile voice network and maintaining the link between the Skype caller and the mobile phone user... almost cool but not quite.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Infopia Seller Conference (the Return)

(I posted this this past Friday, and it disappeared from my blog and my admin console. Guess Blogger has issues with sellers still using eBay/Paypal/Skype :P)

Just came back from presenting at Infopia's Seller conference. Kudos to Infopia for putting together what seemed a very well attended event. It was good to see a room full of top sellers who as a group predominantly 1) still used eBay as a significant sales channel 2) used Paypal at the very least as an option for buyers. Skype seemed to trail in terms of seller usage, but hopefully my impassioned plea had some nominal effect (hard to argue with free).

One seller I spoke with had two pretty good ideas for our friends at Skype. First was to enable Skype with a Babelfish feature to help translate incoming chat. Apparently he was seeing some good pickup in cross border trade for his books, but had to manually copy and paste incoming non-English questions to an online translating service. Given Skype's strong adoption abroad, this seems a fairly intuitive feature to adopt to help augment domestic growth. The seller's second idea was to distribute Skype headsets through eBay's seller base. As eBay sellers package product for buyers, they could drop in Skype headsets donated by eBay. Not my place to say whether this is feasible or not, but it's a well-intentioned request regardless.

Ultimately, it was good to touch base with sellers and see they were still very engaged with eBay Inc's multiple properties...

CBS Direct

Found this story on CNET about CBS interesting. Apparently CBS is selling Survivor episodes on its own site, bypassing its current deal with Google Video. While this has generated some mixed opinions, I think this is a strong move on the part of the network. The great thing about the Internet is that its fairly transparent. Why should CBS pay Google or any other 'digital' middleman with limited traffic for access to its content? Heck, given the popularity of Survivor, doing a general video query on any search engine should surface that content on CBS' site (works on Yahoo :)).

Unless the 'digital' middleman is providing some additional value (ala iTunes seamless integration with its video Ipod or eBay with proven demand and embedded buyer trust), I don't see a lot of reason why a branded video/digital media producer would give away revenue since the content would be easy to find otherwise. If the video content isn't branded (i.e. not a CSI or Survivor), a middleman could make much more sense... (thanks Rick :P)
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