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Posts from the ‘Startups’ Category

9
Sep

TurnTable.fm > Pandora > Last.fm > Online Radio

Turntable.fm is…

  • The fastest growing music service you’re not using
  • MMLOA (Massively Multi-Listening Online Audience)
  • Your new music discovery crack
  • Hockey stickin’: 0 to 140,000 users in their first month
  • Napster, reborn again
  • The first web service that gives me the sense of physically hanging out with friends while online
Turntable.fm Compete Traffic

TurnTable has many exciting revenue opportunities:

  • Visual and audio ads – Just like Pandora’s audio ads between songs and advertising wraps on their website and mobile
  • Premium subscriptions – Just like Pandora One ($36/year) – unlimited listening, no ads, higher quality audio, etc.
  • Affiliate commissions & lead gen – Shazam pushes $100MM+ in purchases towards iTunes each year.  Turntable could blow that away.
  • Virtual goods/avatars – If Zynga can make millions selling virtual corn in FarmVille, TurnTable can too.
  • Social DJing software – Could be sold to clubs and party hosts.  Allow your customers or guests to spin their own tracks via their mobile phones.
  • Virtual currency – Allow listeners to spend this currency within the TurnTable world.  Avatars, virtual concert tickets, more DJ plays, customized rooms, more points, less ads, etc.
  • Promoted songs – Like how StumbleUpon sneaks in paid websites as you “stumble” across the internet, TurnTable could push certain songs/artists to listeners throughout various rooms
  • Let DJs sell their original creations – Sometimes I come across amazing home brewed remixes and original creations uploaded on YouTube.  These small time artists/DJs have a tough time selling their creations primarily due to a lack of a distribution platform. Turntable.fm could become that.  TurnTable could let the DJs sell their original music on Turntable.fm (while taking a cut).  I’m not considering any complexities due to copyrights (think Girl Talk and his copyright ownership issues he has with his songs – which are basically a bunch of copyrighted songs mashed together).
  • Sponsored Rooms – Nascar makes a killing off companies sponsoring drivers and cars.  Sports stadiums sell the name of their venue to the highest bidder.  Why can’t we have Red Bull Rock Radio?  DJ Wooooo’s Dance Dance Revolution?
  • Selling data and music trends based on user demographics – User, usage, and trend data = $$$
  • Paid Rooms / Concerts – Artists & DJs could buy accounts and rooms, similar to the Pro version of uStream.

    Talib Kweli could host live concerts with other artists in one giant, online, virtual stadium:

TurnTable.fm Concert

Downsides to TurnTable.fm right now:

  • There’s an initial 5-10 minute “learning curve”
  • Interaction is practically forced/required, you essentially need to babysit it all day
  • Sometimes it’s hard to find a room where I like the type of music being played – maybe they can setup preset rooms/channels like SiriusXM radio has channels 1-240.  Top 40 Hits = Channel 1, ’90s Pop Hits = Channel 9, etc.

 

How TurnTable can fix their “problem”

Allow listeners to select from 1 of 2 options:

  • Synchronous listening (TurnTable’s current version today)
  • Asynchronous listening

An asynchronous version of TurnTable would simply require tuning into a specific listening channel, kicking back, and listening:

  • Cut out all the gamification and real-time-ness of it all.  No head bops, no chat, no points, etc.  Simply choose a channel and you’re presented with a play and pause button (maybe some lightweight features such as “Faving” and thumbing up and down, but that’s it.  Much simpler.)
  • Eliminates the “learning curve” and confusion
  • Eliminates the urge to babysit it all day
  • Still keeps the uniqueness of real DJs and crowdsourcing of song selection

Song Selection

  • TurnTable = Crowdsourced
  • Pandora = Algorithm based, heavily programmed towards your own music taste (The Pandora Music Genome Project)
  • Last.fm = Algorithm based,  heavily programmed towards basic artist linking (e.g. same genre, similar year)
  • Online Radio = One radio station DJ selects and pushes songs out to listeners.  Zero customization.  Often mainstream and not very unique.

TurnTable.fm Going iPhone

Pandora used to be the only mobile radio I would listen to.  Sometimes I’d launch Last.fm when I ran over my 40 free hours per month on Pandora.  But now I’m dying for the TurnTable.fm mobile app to be released at TechCrunch Disrupt.  I’m ready to use TurnTable.fm as my one and only radio app.  TechCrunch just scooped themselves with the TurnTable iPhone app news:
“Hey TechCrunch — you scooped yourselves. We were saving this as a surprise for TC Disrupt when I’m on stage :)”
– Billy Chasen (CEO & Co-Founder, TurnTable.fm)

TurnTable.fm Going iPad

I’ve seen glimpses of the iPad TurnTable.fm app – very exciting!! (Did I just triple scoop TechCrunch??) 🙂

TurnTable.fm iPad App

Get your free TurnTable.fm Invite here!

Need an invite to TurnTable.fm?  Friend me on Facebook, then you’ll be allowed in.

PS – Remember my post about ideas?  Yeah well, an idea isn’t worth much without awesome execution.  http://www.mixapp.com was made 1-2 years before TurnTable, yet TurnTable is absolutely destroying them.  Why?  TurnTable executed brilliantly and built a mother-loving awesome product that users are compelled to share (super slick and fun UI/UX, visible progress rewards, motivating emotion, social call to action, user re-engagement, etc.)
MixApp Screenshot
30
Jul

Investing in ideas, not just startup companies.

My last post reminded us that ideas are just a multiplier of execution, therefore the equation every entrepreneur and investor is trying to solve for is:
Business = (Idea x Execution) + Passion + Luck

AWFUL IDEA = -1
WEAK IDEA = 1
SO-SO IDEA = 5
GOOD IDEA = 10
GREAT IDEA = 15
BRILLIANT IDEA = 20

NO EXECUTION = $1
WEAK EXECUTION = $1,000
SO-SO EXECUTION = $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.
The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

Passion fuels you through challenges and determines how hard the company engine is working.
Luck is the wildcard you just have to accept as an entrepreneur or investor.

 

Investing in Startup Businesses via Incubators & Accelerators

There’s a trend of the so-called Y Combinator model (e.g. TechStars, LaunchBox Digital, DreamIt VenturesCapitol Factory500 Startups, Founder Institute, etc.) and it’s on the rise.  Nowadays, it seems everyone is starting up their own startup incubator/accelerator program:

These programs are great and I love them (My company, Koofers went through LaunchBox Digital ’08 as part of their first graduating class and now I’m working out of TechPad), but these investors are investing in businesses, not just ideas.  Remember the equation from above?  Businesses require both an idea AND executors.  That’s why many investors always stress that they’re not just investing in the business idea, but the founders and team behind the idea, a.k.a. the executors.

 

Investing in Ideas – VCs?

VCs who don’t want to setup an incubator type of office space fully equipped with pizza, beer, and ping pong tables are trying to get into the action via seed investments.  Sequoia Capital, a billion dollar fund tries to invest in seed rounds so they can “get in early” on great ideas that could blow up if executed on correctly.  Heck, they even claim to invest in ideas!

When I saw “Ideas” as a link on Sequoia’s main nav menu, I got super excited, thinking, “Cool!  A giant VC fund will hear my idea out?  Awesome, let’s do this.”  After I clicked the Ideas link, my excitement quickly vanished as I was greeted with a giant <h1>Writing a Business Plan</h1> followed up with “Submit a Business Plan” call to action button.  I clicked a link entitled “Ideas” yet it took me to this MBA-like business plan page filled with phrases like:

  • Sustainable business
  • Clarity of purpose
  • Large market
  • Rich customers
  • Focus
  • Pain killers
  • Team DNA
  • Agility
  • Frugality
  • Inferno
  • Business model
  • Team
  • Financials

Submit a Business Plan

Yuck!  I just wanted somewhere to submit my idea, not a 25 page business plan.  Sequoia, if you’re out there listening, I suggest changing that link from “Ideas” to “Business Plans”.

 

Good Ideas are Valuable
All the Y Combinator modeled incubator programs spend hundreds of hours sifting through ideas to find the “good ones”.  Many businesses (small and large) have brainstorming meetings to see if their employees can come up with good ideas for whatever project they’re working on.  So why isn’t there a business that is designed to take in ideas and turn those ideas into money?

 

Places to Submit Your Ideas Today

  1. HighDEAS – Sure, these are ideas people had when they were high, but there are actually some good ones in there.  For example, “Soda fountain machines should give out ice cubes with the same flavor as your soda“.  Not a bad idea!  I’d pay 5 cents more for my drink to have “Coke Cubes” instead of standard water cubes that will eventually melt and make my Coke taste all watered down.
  2. The Internet Wishlist – Ideas for apps and websites people are wishing for.
  3. My Starbucks Idea – Share, vote, and discuss ideas about Starbucks and the coffee experience
  4. Google Product Ideas – A suggestion box on ways to improve Google’s current products
  5. Pepsi Refresh Project – Pepsi is funding amazing ideas that refresh the world.  However, if your idea wins, you have to actually go out and act on your project idea.

 

Quirky – Social, Crowd-sourced Product Development
My idea is to have some kind of company that incubates ideas and finds a way to monetize off them (ideally even paying the idea makers back for their contributions).

The only company that I know that does this today is Quirky (and they’re still a young startup.  Founded in 2009).  Their process works like this:

  1. Submit your product idea to Quirky.
  2. Ideas are rated, sorted, voted, picked, and refined by the Quirky user community.  Every week the top 10 are assessed and 2 ideas are selected for the week.
  3. Expert product designers, researchers, and engineers develop working prototypes of those 2 product ideas.
  4. Quirky handles all the logistics (research, mechanical engineering, patents, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, etc.) and foots the entire bill
  5. Every unit of the product that is sold, all the community members who influenced the development of the product with their ideas are paid out accordingly


Quirky empowers average people with above average ideas to be financially paid out for those ideas.

Can the Quirky model of user generated and crowd critiqued ideas make it into other industries besides the product development world?

 

Large Companies Don’t Want Unsolicited Ideas

  1. Apple’s Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy
  2. eBay’s Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy
  3. Bank of America’s Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy
  4. Zynga’s Unsolicited Ideas Submission Policy
  5. Chick-fil-A’s Unsolicited Ideas Submission Policy

 

Nike… Just Do It Don’t Do It

A devoted and passionate customer of Nike turned to Nike’s support forums to contribute an idea he had:

http://forums.nike.com/message.jspa?messageID=191894
24 hours later, a Nike employee responded with a something along the lines of, “Hey, don’t send us any ideas.  We will only listen to any ideas that you personally own a patent to.  Thanks, but sorry.”

Nike - Don't Do It

Come on, really?  Some of the best ideas may be thought up by average consumers while taking a shower or riding the bus.  What if Nike never invented the wireless chip you put in your running shoes to track your every step?  Maybe an avid runner could have had the idea and could have submitted it to an “Idea Bank” type of company.

 

“Idea Freelancers”

What if a casual beer drinker thought he had a cold beer, started drinking it, then realized it was actually quite warm (even though the glass initially felt cold) and was disappointed because it wasn’t cold enough.  Maybe he would have come up with the label that changes colors once your beer is cold enough idea.  Sound familiar Coors Light?  Cold activated Blue Mountains label.

These are just some examples of what could have been thought up by an average person (not a full time employee of a company).  I’m sure there are thousands of genius ideas floating around in people’s minds right now, but no company wants to hear them (or won’t hear them due to legal reasons).

For starters, why isn’t there a Digg-like website (voting system) that allows people to submit cool website/startup ideas?  Programmers who just want to create something interesting and fun could check into the idea list and if they saw something that interested them, they could go program it.  I bet all kinds of cool and interesting sites would show up within days.

My buddy, Bill Boebel (successful entrepreneur and angel investor), comes up with business ideas all the time.  So, he created a separate blog exclusively for his “Startup Ideas“.

I understand many entrepreneurs are very protective about their self-proclaimed “genius” ideas and often won’t tell anyone what it is because they’re afraid someone else is going to steal their genius idea and make millions off of it.  But look, Bill Boebel’s not afraid to share his ideas.  Neither am I.  I’m sure there are many more “idea freelancers” out there willing to shoot ideas out.  I understand that the lawyers of all these companies are simply trying to protect their business with these unsolicited idea submission policies.  For example, if an Apple fanboy E-mailed Steve Jobs in 2001 detailing an amazing idea he had for a really cool MP3 player, that would be bad legal news as Apple was in the middle of developing their killer MP3 device, the iPod.

 

Let’s Think Different

Let’s embrace the wisdom of crowds.  Let’s realize as a business and tech world that the many are smarter than the few and that collective wisdom can truly shapes businesses for the better.

 

Thoughts?

This is my idea and one of my first blog posts to document it.  Maybe the idea sucks.  Maybe it’s good.
I need to hear feedback from the community.  Isn’t that the whole idea of my idea?

Comment below or jump over to the Hacker News thread at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2826916

23
Jul

Business = (Idea x Execution) + Luck

I just got done reading “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby, an online CD store that was founded in 2007 for independent musicians to sell their CDs directly to consumers. Loved the book. Thanks go to Lee Bradshaw for recommending it to me.

Anything You Want - Book Cover

My favorite takeaway from the book:

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

Explanation:

AWFUL IDEA = -1
WEAK IDEA = 1
SO-SO IDEA = 5
GOOD IDEA = 10
GREAT IDEA = 15
BRILLIANT IDEA = 20

NO EXECUTION = $1
WEAK EXECUTION = $1,000
SO-SO EXECUTION = $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.
The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.
That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas.
I’m not interested until I see their execution.

Contrary to Sivers’ last couple of lines, I am interested in hearing about your idea, because if it’s great or brilliant and you can’t execute on it, I’ll buy it off you for $15-$20, then go execute on it like it’s my job 🙂

 

Update:

After re-thinking the equation, I think it’s missing one variable: luck.

Startup luck is often tightly correlated to timing.  Entrepreneurs live in the future, and so we can have a hard time accurately judging when the market will be ready to accept a new product or technology.  So hitting the timing right can often seem like a stroke of pure luck.

So instead of the equation being:
Business = Idea x Execution

I think it needs to be:
Business = (Idea x Execution) + Luck

23
Jun

Prediction: I will live and work in CA by 2015

Just got back from a business, day trip to SFO.

Every time I go out west (specifically San Francisco), I re-realize how nice it is out there and how much I really need to be a part of the tech/startup scene in Silicon Valley.

Driving around the city, you see cool tech startups all over the place.  VC funds are everywhere!

…plus you see billboards for Box.net, Square, and other hot startups.  You don’t see that anywhere else in the country, definitely not in DC.

I love it and I can’t wait to be a part of it all.

7
Jun

Prediction: Facebook Stock > Google Stock by 2018

  • Facebook IPOs in 2012.
  • Facebook dominates your entire Internet experience by utilizing your social graph
  • Facebook eventually “cracks the revenue code” like Google did with AdWords & AdSense
  • Google slowly dies (unless they acquire Facebook)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) dies and it becomes all about Social Graph Optimization (SGO) and News Feed Optimization (NFO)

Back in 2005 (a year after joining Facebook when I was a student at Virginia Tech), I was telling people that Facebook would be a bigger and more powerful company than Google.  People laughed at me and called me insane.  But it was just so obvious to see how many college students were completely addicted to a website – I have never seen such usage and engagement ever before (and I still haven’t seen a page more addicting to the common person than Facebook).  Google is probably the biggest competitor in that sense, but people use it for 10 seconds then they’re off after clicking the first couple of results.  Then maybe some porn websites can rank up their in terms of traffic and addiction levels, but that’s limited in terms of audience, morality, and there’s only so much money to be made there.

Anyway, I’m kicking myself I didn’t actually document my claims in writing way back then, because people still don’t believe I could see Facebook being such a big deal – but it was so crystal clear.

I don’t know exactly how Facebook is going to “crack the revenue code”, but they have so much time, money, and power – they’ll eventually figure it out.  Whether it’s true social shopping with Facebook Commerce (fCommerce, the new eCommerce) or it’s Facebook destroying Google and all other search engines by totally killing off all SEO practices and moving the search focus relevancy to your specific tastes and likes compounded and further enhanced by your friends’ web history, likes/dislikes, and recommendations.

I’m looking forward to it.  I just wish Facebook IPO’d back in 2007-2008 because I would have plowed my entire life savings into them.  Even with the crazy potential I believe they have in their future, I’m worried about their IPO because I’m afraid there isn’t enough money in the world for a Facebook IPO.