Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Widgets and Postapp Widgetbox

Here's a bold (not) prediction. The day of the widget is here... Hide the children. Lazy college economics professors will no longer be able to talk about 'widgets' and their marginal cost without a knowing chuckle from the back of the class. Widgets (whether AJAX or Flash-based) are fast becoming mainstream. Now sometimes I hear complaints that my perspective represents the TechCrunch 53K (number of TechCrunch readers) more than the mass market. But the more I read about the rising adoption of services like Netvibes and ( is a juggernaut btw), it looks like millions of mass market users are in agreement about widgets as well. Check out the traffic patterns of some popular webtops below (and then compare it to -- yow. Mr Softie is doing something right here.)

Widgets are also hugely popular within social networks (with services like RockYou, Youtube and Slide). Check out almost any MySpace page and you'll see image and video widgets in prominent spots. Web services from and Digg are also popular these days. As the number of webtops, social networks and their respective users increase, the increasing complexity of managing these different platforms for placement of widgets becomes strikingly apparent. Everyone from MySpace to AOL to Netvibes to Microsoft Live (and on and on) will have different requirements, policies and means for enabling 3rd party widgets.

Obviously, there is a significant opportunity here to build an integrated platform to enable widgets for wide distribution regardless of end-user platform, and it seems that PostApp/Widgetbox is leading that charge. While they are still in private beta, they have had a lot of interest from the developer community in their offering (who apparently also agree that widgets will be big). They remind me a ton of Appforge that's built a killer business enabling developers to build wireless applications across hundreds of handsets without having to deal with conforming their app to accomodate each and every handset's distinct software requirements. This is exciting stuff folks -- the personal web only promises to get bigger with the increasing value of an integrated web experience via webtops/social networks (see post below). Companies like PostApp are helping accelerate this movement even further.

Netvibes, Meebo and Alexa. A good threesome.

Netvibes just integrated Alexa and Meebo into their embedded widgets for users. Very cool. Given I use Alexa/Alexaholic on an almost daily basis to measure potential partners' online activity, as well as other sites of interest, the Alexa widget is way useful as a monitoring tool. While I like Meebo, the integration of the Meebo service into Netvibes feels a bit contrived. The interface on Netvibes simply mirrors the Meebo experience. I would have rather had a tighter integration so I could access Meebo chat directly from my Netvibes homepage, rather than a separate 'chat' tab . Maybe fold the contact list into the regular chat window and expand only when needed. Ah well...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cash Flow and Speed

Good post on managing cash flow in a startup. Here's a short but pertinent excerpt.

"Even more shocking was the speed at which my business flipped from success to failure. One day I watched my bank account grow at rates that blew me away and the next, I sat looking at all my cool computer equipment deciding whether it was more important to me and my business than paying rent that month was. I didn’t have time to get new customers while supporting my existing ones and my company virtually augered itself into the planet in an instant. I shut down the company just a month or so later and ran to work at a big company to lick my wounds."

The startup I founded with my wife Lisa, Cima Systems, and the following company Lisa ran, VoiceNotify, were great contrasts in cash management (one VC funded, the other bootstrapped). With either investment model, managing cash flow was a time killer in multiple ways (time being the most precious of our resources). First, raising funds soaked up a ton of the day-to-day. Whether it was friends and family, customer funding, angel or venture capital, we ended up doing a lot of road trips and cold calls just getting our business capitalized enough for the basics (phone bills, bandwidth, hardware). Second, because of the constraints on cash, we didn't have anywhere near the time to ponder and analyze whether a decision was the absolute right one. Better to make a decision that's directionally correct over a day or two than spend a month vetting all possible options (a month of payroll and overhead was way expensive for both companies). This is in stark contrast to decisions at a larger company, where the opportunity cost for making the wrong decision often far outweighs the time investment in due diligence and analysis.

Startups aren't necessarily faster than large corporations by nature. From my (limited) experience, cash flow (and the lack thereof) made speed a prerequisite to startup success.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

AAIA Aftermarket eForum

Just got back from a two day visit to Chicago for the AAIA's (Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) Aftermarket eForum conference. As far as conferences go, the AAIA did a great job pulling together very compelling content and top companies/players in the parts industry. What makes an auto parts conference compelling you ask? Well, this whole web services thing is catching fire in a bigger way with huge, traditional markets than most conceive.

EDI has been a long-standing standard in the automotive industry for data interchange among companies able to afford EDI usage. Recently, the efforts of the AAIA (and other key associations) to enable a standard classification of parts (via PIES and ACES) has resulted in material adoption of these standards across the repair & replace parts market. Standardization of product classifications is a key element to driving the use of web services for data integration among part vendors and customers. The availability of web services makes EDI-type data integration with suppliers/customers more readily available and far less expensive to businesses of any size given the XML/SOAP/REST standards used for APIs today.

There was a surprising number of references to the use of web services for part suppliers and manufacturers at the conference, and wider acceptance among conference attendees that this was an important aspect to improving their future business practices. That said, in some of my one-to-one conversations with distributors and manufacturers, there was also a general frustration with third party applications not offering web services as a direct part of their applications' offering. A hint to all developers out there with an interest in online parts & accessories sales... web services seems to have crossed an inflection point here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Worst site names

Credit to Dead 2.0 for pointing out this post "The top 10 unintentionally worst company URLs". For folks looking to buy remote-access software here's #7 -- Rofl.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Cool no? RockYou! is appropriately named.

RockYou... wait not yet :)

Anyone else have issues embedding dynamic elements into their Blogger posts? I keep getting a "Tag is Not closed error" for any picture/slide/video inserts I try to do. And no I'm not an engineer :(

Update: Amazingly, I figured it out....

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jon Stewart

Here's a surprise. Jon Stewart is really funny. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

WindingRoad and Olive Software

A few months ago I read up on Olive Software, a company whose application converts physical documents into standard XML. The end product is preserved in the original format of the document (i.e. the look and feel is that of an offline publication), while making all the content within said document structured and, therefore, searchable. It's was a cool piece of technology but I felt it was fairly esoteric and outside of my scope of interest.

Recently, some very well known editors/journalists in the automotive space have come together and formed Winding Road magazine. They have an interesting business model whereby they give away subscriptions to their pub for free. The content is very high-end (given the founding team's journalistic experience) which should drive enthusiast and consumer interest. What's interesting about this formerly 'traditional' format is that they've licensed Olive's software and embedded advertisements into an online and downloadable publication which has all all the benefits of being built in an XML standard. Much like reading a physical pub, Winding Road's download is picture, content and format rich, making it an engaging read (as opposed to published content on basic HTML pages which lacks a lot of polish). Previous issues can be read in this downloadable form, but are also captured in open HTML pages thereby capturing natural search benefits lost in the download format.

Even more interesting is that because the download/online publication is in XML format, almost all the terms are linkable, including the advertisements. If you're interested in the content of a particular ad, Winding Road will redirect your click to the advertiser's site. I assume Winding Road is then able to exactly measure the true effectiveness of ad spend on their pub. Take away the costs of offline production and distribution and Winding Road has taken a real interesting angle on what the future of magazine publishing should be...

XML/Web services are usually focused on data integration. Olive Software, via Winding Road, has made XML material as a media and advertising tool as well.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Interesting new site focused on the automotive space called Autospies. They've integrated Digg like functionality for auto-related news items, along with photos, reviews and videos. This concept seems to be catching steam. One of my favorite auto mags is Car and Driver. Been reading it since I was a kid. Surprisingly, Autospies' online traffic performance has matched Car and Driver's online presence (per the below).
The inclusion of user-elected content to vertical sites (especially in automotive) seems to be generating increased interest from publishers and the public (Carspace from Edmunds and CarCrazyCentral are invoking social networking for car enthusiasts). Even if specific players in this realm fail, looks like the general plumbing of Web 2.0 has 'crossed the chasm' and achieved mainstream acceptance.
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