Monday, November 27, 2006

First days at Rockyou

I'm finally moved out of my eBay cubicle and into Rockyou's new offices in downtown San Mateo. It's a nice top floor space - one studio-type room where all 9 of us sit (no cubicles), one conference room (a cardboard packing box is our conference table), a mini-kitchen and a cramped bathroom. As you can tell, still settling in :) We have direct access to the building's roof deck and are within walking distance to my favorite pizza joint on the peninsula, Amici's. So far so good.

A few thoughts from a 4-year corporate guy going back to a startup.

I forgot how all-encompassing startup life could be. Rather than being one of the last to leave, here I'm usually first. Lance and Jia (Rockyou's cofounders) were understanding about my family/kids time requirements (7:30-9:30). That said, with the kids asleep, I'm usually back on the laptop working through deal terms, ripping through MySpace profiles to verify our competitive position or Skyping with Jia/Lance on the week's upcoming activities. I've always been a night owl and don't go to sleep before 1AM or so... except now its spent working/thinking rather than watching Conan or playing poker. Given my poker playing as of late, that's a double bonus.

A large user base is a good thing. Rockyou occupies a very specific niche, personalization widgets for social network, blog and personal website users. As we close in on 10MM unique users in November alone, we're realizing that this niche is more canyon than ravine. While the absolute number is great to have, a large customer base gives us more flexibility to innovate across multiple paths, vs living and dying on one specific product bet (whose focus is to get users in the door in the first place).

This is a lesson learned from eBay and other consumer Internet plays in general... scaling to massive user growth/usage as a primary goal vs monetizing the user base is an absolute requirement these days. Focusing on monetization first gives the competition the opportunity to undercut with a free product. The continuing growth of online advertising ensures that strong traffic will generate $$ at a base level at least. (PlentyofFish's $300K a month from Adsense is a clear example of this). Unlike 1995-2000, when the majority of online advertising spend came from highly volatile, unprofitable web startups (which caused the bubble to pop when they ran out of cash), these days advertising online is being driven by the Fortune 1000, hundreds of thousands of brick/mortar businesses AND online retailers/players. This base of business won't disappear overnight, which helps secure the future for online plays that are able to cross millions of users and keep them engaged. So, for those folks looking to scale users quickly, send me an email ;)

True wireless Internet access is another good thing :) I'm loving the Sprint EVDO wireless hookup on my laptop. We went down to Disney Land this weekend, and I was able to surf the web all 6 hours down I-5. The connection is pretty cheap ($30/month) and fairly fast -- about as good as my old DSL line. Anyone who does serious travelling should get one and no I'm not being paid by Sprint ;)

Lunch with Princesses is expensive... One of the biggest rackets around is Lunch with the Disney Characters at California Adventure. We paid $70 for a burger, fries, mac n cheese lunch for four, but got to meet Princess Belle, Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty. Woot! I'll post the thrilling pictures tonight. As a result, I'm thinking of opening up a local chapter of Lunch with the Disney Characters in Danville. Honestly, it's an almost perfect business model.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ro. I got LinkedIn's update that you're now at Rockyou. Congrats on the move. Hope all's going well. Email me about TripAdvisor opportunities. Hugs, Karen Iannone

2:06 PM  
Blogger Ro said...

Hey KI!

What's your email address? Send it to me at I lost all my old emails when I gave back my comp to eBay.

4:14 PM  

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