Jason Calacanis at Tokyo 2.0

I somehow managed to catch Jason Calacanis on his very first visit to Japan ever making a presentation at Tokyo 2.0. I was just going over my notes only to be a bit shocked to see that I could of read most of these by subscribing to his email list as shown in this post.

But to be fair, there’s also a lot that he said that wasn’t in the post and he’s a great speaker who does a great job of delivery, it was well worth the journey to see the real man in action. Now I can at least pretend that we’re actually Facebook friends since I shook his hand in real life.

Below are my notes:

TechCrunch 50, the Sundance Film Festival of Silicone Valley

U.S. is the best represented and Israel the second with 7 presentations and Japan came in third with 3 startups making their pitch.

Next round is next September

250 pitches are made to Jason lasting 10-15 minutes over the phone

The Future of Startups Under the Economic Climate We Face

Flying Cars versus Electric Cars

Who knows when flying cars will arrive? Some say 2 years and others say 30 years or more but in some ways it’s arrived yet in a sense it never has.

Electric cars in contrast have constantly arrived and re-arrived on the scene. The first was Edison’s model in 1913 followed by GM in 1973, the Vanguard-Sebris in 1974, GM’s EV-1 in 1999 that got destroyed by GM and the Tesla Roadster coming in 2008.

The point: the future constantly plays with us and it’s the entrepreneur’s task to make it happen, but it’s hard and will only get harder.

Personally experienced 3 boom/bust cycles.

The global financial crisis puts us at a unique point in history where the whole world gets to experience the same recession, so how do you innovate in a recession?

Zero Cost Startups

From 1995-2000 it would take more than $2 million to create an IT startup (see slides below)

Now you can do the same with Amazon infrastructure, recruit through social networks, work from home/co-location office/distributed.

Stocks have their ups and downs but the internet is still steadily rising whether it be time online, money spent online, internet access per capita, etc.

Experiences Over Expenses

In a recession, people postpone spending.

Internet usage goes up as free time increases.

Some laid off people started:

  1. partying more => Facebook
  2. taking more pictures => Flickr
  3. got into relationships => eHarmony
  4. find others with similar interests => Meetup

In a down market, people build out of need and not greed.

Companies founded on passion will outperform companies founded for economic gain.

Everything that can be tried will be tried.

The best things are made by people for themselves.

Trust and Curation are the Future

Today we have anonymity, marketers and shady characters.

Need to find a way to add trust to combat anonymity.

There is no wisdom in crowds only in those that control them.

Need a stronger foundation through the process of curation.

Surviving is Innovation

It takes years to make a truly great company.

Many of the great companies of the day are built upon ideas of Web 1.0 companies that died (Friendster to Myspace, Facebook)

Some of the great ideas from web 1.0 are yet to be implemented even as web 2.0 is coming to an end.

Build something that you love with patience and only worry about survival.

Survival is what separates the real entrepreneurs.




Categories: web

“Calacanised” Again and the Internet’s Identity Crisis

The nice thing about the internet is that people can fight and bicker but at the end of the day everyone comes out a winner. In real fights people lose teeth, eyes, pride, and much more. Bystanders would be foolish to jump into a crazy brawl but on the internet everyone just jumps right in.

The latest Calacanis theater is brought to you by Dave Winer of Scripting News fame. This time Calacanis was speaking again like he usually does, doing a little entertainment, postulating, and self-promotion. But the man is good and people know to expect a little promotion so he gets offers from all over to speak.

I guess the interesting thing about this encounter is that it happened in real life instead of being initiated on the internet. Just imagine Al Gore heckling George Bush on his position regarding Iraq. That would be a festival for sure.

My friend Dave Winer heckled me from the back row and threw me under the bus on this blog yesterday (insert “with friends like these” joke here). Dave’s complaint was a I was “spamming” from the stage by talking about my latest passion (the internet’s evironmental crisis) and my piece of the solution, Mahalo, I’ve never been heckled—heck, yelled at—like this in mind presentation in 12 years of speaking at events, let alone by a friend.

On getting “Winered” yesterday

Apologies to Calacanis (Scripting News)


So, at the end of the day we get the usual kiss and make up. I thought that this discussion was interesting not for the celebrity slugfest that it was but because it illustrates the identity crisis of the internet.

All the foundations of the internet are built on open source specifications and software. Not even Microsoft transporting their fat coffers back in time could create the vast infrastructure required to power the internet. All the wonderful things we get from the web is built on such gifts of time and talent. Yet, a lot of the stuff built with such open source tools also happen to be cash cows generating revenue of all sorts.

I think advertising on the web is quickly approaching the sustainability of television advertising (because the internet is eating their budget as well). Just as broadcasting companies spend millions of dollars creating programs for free (with ample ads in between), internet companies are producing web apps instead of TV shows.

Big ideas on the web are worth big bucks. All the open source projects out there give lone developers the power to create powerful commercial products yet open source is rarely if ever financially sustainable let alone profitable. I think the Winer versus Calacanis spat is a good illustration of “ideals versus reality”. Winer is the father of RSS and despite RSS’ ubiquity, he’s not a penny richer for the technology itself. Of course, companies like Feedburner exist only because RSS does. It wouldn’t even be an idea without RSS. I don’t feel sorry for Winer because he’s richer than any of us ever will be but it’s obvious that the man holds certain ideals about the internet very close to his heart.

Maybe those ideals are long dead because the internet is a money machine if there ever was one until something better comes along.

Categories: web

The End of the Internet Magic Mirror

I woke up today to read a really good email from Jason Calacanis. I was certainly one of the people who wrote some negative stuff about Jason only to be confronted with a nice man who is both a successful entrepreneur and a great speaker. It’s always an awkward moment. Luckily, after more than a decade using the internet and maybe the calming effects of age, I’m much less prone to internet asperges syndrome although I’m much more likely to blurt something out on twitter or have to check myself every now and then when sending a short email. The other day, Mike Arrington got spat on. While Mike isn’t exactly the most loved guy on the internet, many draw the line at getting spit on. While I agree that things are getting out of hand for people like Jason and Mike who are some of the most successful people who have bootstrapped themselves on the strength of blogging, they’ve also done their share of negative baiting, Arrington’s bashing of Twitter and particularly Blaine Cook comes to mind as well as Jason’s spats with David Winer. However, when the stakes escalate to personal violence then it’s time to splash water on our collective faces and try to wake up.

The Internet Magic Mirror

The crazy thing about the internet is the “fake anonymity” creates a magic mirror effect between the haves and have nots. In this case the “haves” can be anything from more money, more fame (especially the internet variety), or simply more expertise. Usually, the target of ire is someone with a very visible profile or following. Their actions are more or less public and their opinions shape discussions on the internet. It’s like we’re looking at them from behind a magic mirror. They see a mirror, we see them. The only difference is they may not see us but they can hear us like we hear them. If you peek at the comments section of any famous blogger intrepid enough to allow them, you see it is a veritable cesspool with some rare gems in between.

Why is the anonymity fake? Unless, you are a cracker or hacker versed in internet protocols you know very well that unless you hop a couple proxies and take steps to cover your tracks, that when you overstep the line, the police will come knocking at your door. Probably, given away by your internet service provider. Also, the longer you stay on the net the more common patterns emerge. Common handle names and avatars not to mention writing style. These are all digital fingerprints that you leave all over the internet. If you own a domain, your real name and mailing address might be a whois search away or plug in an email address from your contacts into facebook to look them up. Yet, we seem to think that we are a lot more safer saying whatever comes to mind without thinking out the consequences when posting online. We might as well as use our real names.

Negativity Echoes

What we have is something more akin to a WWE wrestling match than civil dialogue where crowds jeer and boo the “bad guys” who are in reality not so bad and even really great people in real life. It becomes a form of entertainment where we forget that we are constantly looking to these people for inspiration and ideas while ridiculing them with snide comments.

The Value of Anonymity

However, while I agree with Jason’s plea for civility and empathy, we are talking to people in a stable, democratic, and more or less civilized society. We must not forget that anonymity can serve as fertile ground for the exchange of ideas and as agents for social change. Civility and privacy is defined by the ruling class, just look at the liberties the Bush administration took with our privacy. Anonymity is the “blood barrier” of last resort that prevents government from encroaching on our rights when social checks go awry, it’s why the internet is a dark, powerful force in changing communist China (for better or worse is something history will show). America’s founding owes a lot to men like Thomas Paine (who would no doubt be a political blogger in this day and age) and the Federalist Papers. America’s independence and democracy was forged in the crucible of anonymous discourse led by the very leaders of the American Revolution. To sacrifice anonymity in the interest of civility and empathy would be a very steep price to pay indeed.

We Live in Public (and the end of empathy) « The Jason Calacanis Weblog

Some Things Need To Change

Google Not Good Enough for You?

Google search is a staple to anyone’s internet diet like rice or bread. It’s the food with calories to sustain you and keep your body moving through the day but is it the main dish? I know you’re thinking, “but is there anything other than Google?”. To an extent it’s true that there’s no better way of finding stuff than Google but if we look closely, Google is far from our main dish. At least if you spend an ungodly amount of time on the web as most of us do.

Google to me is like a smart missile. It’s great for nailing it when you more or less know the coordinates of your target. I find the most utility from Google as an API lookup (for obscure programming stuff) or even as a phone directory (“Where’s the party held at?”) kind of stuff. It’s really like a massive encyclopedia to me (also all the reference stuff simply links back to Wikipedia). Which is why it’s hard for me to feel a sense of discovery or even excitement when using Google. It’s a boring work horse.

Sometimes it can be tedious too. We all have those “strange itch” searches that also happen to conflict with dictionary words. Try the search for “rails” as an example. It’s hard to imagine everyone on the web that searches for “rails” means the “web framework” and not something related to trains. Such is Google.

It also breaks down when you’re looking for a specific subset of information or when you’ve already got a grasp of what you’re looking for and want something more specialized. It’s probably why people use Technorati to search blogs and other vertical searches that meets their needs better.

A lot of people were surprised that Jason Calacanis would launch Main Page – Mahalo a human-powered search. Like what’s next hamster-powered servers? Still if we look more closely all the exciting stuff happening on the web today outside of Google’s realm is human-powered information services. Social news sites like Digg leverage eager and well-informed users to provide relevant but diverse news and information. Wikipedia (though they’ve got a couple frauds) basically allow well-informed or research savvy “experts” to collaborate effectively to distill knowledge.

Smart people like Niall Kennedy are doing things in the realm like his Startup Search. We’re at a stage where we know we want more from the web but just haven’t seen any viable alternative or earth-shaking paradigm shift.

There’s an Australian startup that tries to provide users with a truly “live” search that serves you relevant results in real time.

MyLiveSearch is fundamentally different. It works through a small browser plug-in. The search terms are put through Google, or other indexed search databases, but those results are treated as “starting points” alongside the user’s bookmarks and other popular web hubs.

From there, the live search takes over, crawling through hundreds of web pages connected to those starting points in search of more information relevant to the search.

Mr Gabriel says the results come back in seconds, and are almost always richer, more detailed and more useful than a standard, index-based search. His product can also search the so-called “invisible web” of dynamically-generated web pages that search engines have trouble indexing.

Better than Google? Creator thinks so

I think it’ll only be a matter of time before we see a “search meets social” paradigm shift. Something that’s more organic and relevant than indexed search like Google but not labor-intensive in the least.

Categories: web

Google Sins

Despite views to the contrary, we live in a search engine dominated world and as long as we do, we will be at the mercy of search engines. Google’s become a staple of our daily web consumption. It helps us hit all the hard to reach corners of the web to connect us with the knowledge that we seek. Google can literally make or break your business if traffic affects your income, the infamous “Google death” where some badly implemented search engine marketing can kill your business.

The rise of bloggers is as much a story about search (or how Google defines search) as much as it is about independent writers finding an audience. Scam artists and online “entrepeneurs” have been trying to spam Google with their junk ever since it came onto the scene. Yet, it wasn’t until blogs rose to prominence post 9/11 that people’s eyes were really opened to the business repurcussions.

Basically, blogs are a sanctioned form of link farming/exchanges. You can’t have a meaningful dialogue on the web without links. They’re like email to bloggers. If you link to a blogger, they will visit your site because there are more than enough tools such as analytics, technorati, and trackbacks that lead you to other blogs talking about you. These links are also what fuel Google’s search. Everyone knows that Google’s algorithm was inspired by the citations system found in peer-reviewed academic papers. Basically, you can tell the quality of an academic paper based on a) the prominence of the peer-reviewed journal and b) how many times it gets cited by other academic papers (you cannot write a paper without citing others).

It was a brilliant insight. However, the concept of “peer review” on the web is a very loose one and many times popularity is a great substitute for quality in terms of generating massive backlinks. Google still manages somehow to keep above the flood of spam (I hear that they abuse Bayesian filtering like a bald-headed stepchild to achieve this). You can gauge the influence of your site by checking out the PageRank that Google assigns you.

This is really where I think Google’s sins are. Yes, to use a cliche, it’s a blessing and a curse. Once you get a decent PageRank from Google you can write about anything and more likely than not you’ll get a good placement for keywords that you use in your blog post. You don’t have to be an authority. Of course, the more competitive (lucrative) search terms are spammed to death so that’s a no go but for most any other area, you can end up being the “go to source” for information even if all you did is fired off a sentence or two and linked to a real source of information. This is mainly because PageRank spills over into all other pages of your blog or website.

This is what fuels the SEO industry. Trash them all you want but a good SEO can make sure your site continues to reap the rewards of strategically optimized content. It’s the reason why SEOs will never die. They’re Google’s unofficial partners much like any retails store is the partner of whatever goods they sell.

To me Google’s about as exciting as a phonebook. That’s why sites like Digg and services like StumbleUpon gain traction. There’s so much interesting stuff out there but nothing to point it out to us like Google does for standard information. It’s looking more and more like MicroSoft for the internet realm. Really.

Categories: web

links for 2007-03-31

links for 2007-03-28

If You Really Want to Know if there is A-list Blogging…

There’s a raging debate about whether there are A-list bloggers and blue collar bloggers. It might be a bit hard for the A-list to see how far they’ve come and just assume the perks they enjoy are simply open to all. Here’s are some quick exercises to see how different blogging is for the A-list blogger and blue collar blogger.

If you are an A-list blogger:

Start up a brand new blog, don’t tell anyone the domain, write exactly what you would write for 3 months. Keep tabs on the traffic and report back.

Or A-listers and blue collars could:

Switch blogs with a blogger you like (preferably with a similar writing style) for a month and report back on your observations.

Now, I’m not in any way saying the A-list bloggers don’t deserve their success or recognition because they do, especially for being pioneers, but if you had to start it all over again without your name you might not find the same amount of exposure. I think that’s a fair point that A-listers could easily grant because it’s the truth.

Deep Jive Interests » Yes, Mr. Calacanis, The A-List Exists. No, Its Not Easy To Break Into (If You Wanted To).

The dumbest argument in the blogosphere: A List vs. Blue Collar