Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Google Maps Mobile

I recently downloaded Google Maps Mobile for my Treo. It's works great. And there was a big surprise. It includes traffic! This is something that I've wanted on my wife's GPS for a while. If you haven't checked it out, it's pretty amazing. My only minor complaint is that it doesn't have a menu option to disconnect the phone from the data connection.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stanford Podcasts - eHarmony - Greg Waldorf

I was just pointed to a set of great podcasts done by Stanford B-School and particularly, I just listed to the podcast by eHarmony's Greg Waldorf.

Having been involved with eHarmony from it's founding days as an acting CTO, it was interesting to hear how far they've come. Some items from the pod cast:
  • 100,000 - babies born as a result of relationships started on eHarmony
  • 15M registered
  • 1% of marriages in US this year resulting from eHarmony

I don't know if these are true, but still, the impact of the vision of the original founders Neil Clark Warren and Greg Forgatch is amazing.

A couple of things I should add - Greg didn't mention the technical challenges they had (scalable complex matching algorithm) and the issues they had with an initial developer. He was asked about how you get a network business going - and it was extremely challenging. One of the things that Greg Forgatch (the original CEO) should be credited with was testing many different marketing approaches until he found the ones that worked.

Still it was gratifying to hear the numbers.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Interesting Model for University President

Saw a post by Paul Kedrosky pointing us to Graeme Thickins on How Stanford Does It. It's interesting to think about how universities might want to have their staff better aligned with moving ideas from the lab to start-ups. In my experience, this has been really hard to do successfully.

Challenge of Predicting Winners

I just read a bit on the payout to YouTube from the Google Acquisition (Internet News, CNN). Part of the discussion around this is the talk about the founder who only got $83M (as compared to $3xxM for the other founders) who bailed out early and choose to go back to school. The poor guy. What a bad $200M decision.

At the same time, when I saw an old colleague at an event at UCLA a few weeks back, we both were discussing how hard we felt it was to predict success in this kind of venture. Why did YouTube win? Why did MySpace win? Certainly MySpace's tie-in with music was a genius move. But even if you came to me with that idea, I'm not sure I would have bought it.

As I look at more and more start-ups predicated on viral growth, and at the use of social marketing, it's becoming simultaneously easier to understand some aspects of viral growth and still a gap in understanding what's going to be that "hook" that will grab people at the end of the day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Events and Networking in Los Angeles

One of the issues I discussed in Innovation and Geography was that the geography and traffic in Los Angeles generally makes it more difficult for networking. In fact, I would say that over the past few years, it has become harder to produce or find events that will attract a good audience.

First - let me say what I consider to be a good audience - interesting people. For me, these are folks who are actively involved in wide variety of technology-enabled businesses. They are tied to and influence the strategy/direction of the business. They are smart and like to talk about what's going on.

Unfortunately, a lot of networking events attract more service providers and people out of work than interesting people. And, yes, I realize that I'm a service provider, but I also am a CTO for several companies. And there are definitely other service providers who provide things like marketing services who are interesting, so it's not all service providers, it's more like the wealth management types. You know what I mean.

Having produced a variety of events over the years and having been on the boards of both the Technology Council and AITP, I can say that it's really hard to attract a critical mass of interesting people. In fact, after several years of trying, I've instead started relying on my CTO Forum group and private events (like an upcoming wine tasting).

Why does this hurt, well I was just reading a few blog posts yesterday on finding startup co-founders:

You would hope that networking events would be a good way to find suitable folks. Again, in LA, they are a bit few and far between (literally in geographical terms).

The one thing that is making me more hopeful about events is that I'm starting to see more pre-event lists of people who will be attending. This allows me to get a sense of who's coming and also to figure out who I'll try to meet at the event. Certainly a recent event that had lots of service providers in attendence was a whole lot better because I had a few people that I wanted to discuss particular topics at the event.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Innovation and Geography

I ran across a post in Read/Write Web - Does Location Matter in Web Innovation? that talked about a recent NY Times article When It Comes to Innovation, Geography Is Destiny.

Reading the articles and the comments is probably worth it, but I personally think that the NY Times is overstating the advantage of being in Silicon Valley with a couple of exceptions...

I've personally been involved in the start-up world in Los Angeles for about 15 years, and have had the opportunity to work on many early-stage companies (e.g., eHarmongy) as an acting CTO. LA is a vibrant community with a rich network of angels that fund early stage companies, lots of VCs, easy access to big media, lots of innovation in media, mobile content, games, green, health care, and many, many others.

Probably the biggest drawback of Los Angeles is the distance and traffic that makes networking more difficult. Evening events in Orange County require about 2 hours of round trip drive time. It has to be a pretty good event for it to be worth attending. Some events, like a recent Tech Coast Angel event at UCLA are really worth it. But some events you don't get quality attendees and then its a drag to drive that far.

My only other complaint is that right now it's very hard to find good technical people at all levels. Of course, that's probably even more true in Silicon Valley.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Finding Good Developers in Los Angeles?

I'm part of a CTO group that meets once a month to discuss various topics. About 18 months ago, the entire group began to mention that they were having more difficulty finding good developers. Since then it has become much harder to find people and while we are talking about hiring relatively small numbers of people, the typical sources of candidates don't seem to be working.

I personally believe that there are lots and lots of good developers working inside of organizations who would love to work on the interesting projects that we work on all the time, yet they aren't out actively looking, so it's almost impossible to find them. If anyone has ideas on how to reach into to find candidates or other ways to find good people, I would love to hear it.

Where LinkedIn Works for Me

I've been a long time user of LinkedIn, but only recently have started getting the benefits I always expected. I'm sure that many of you have read Guy's article Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn. His suggestions are all good suggestions, but what I've been finding is that I end up using linked in primarily for two kinds of things:
  1. Keeping track of who I know (and keeping their emails updated), and
  2. Finding people to discuss specific topics
I'm sure there are better ways to keep track of folks, but when I was planning to do a get together, my list of LinkedIn contacts was a great place to start. Sometimes, I'll use LinkedIn to contact my network, but mostly I still just go to their profile and email them.

When I was looking for speakers for an event last fall on Web 2.0, LinkedIn was a great way to reach out. When I recently was looking to find people who had experience with using social networks to reach people for what might be considered guerilla marketing efforts, again LinkedIn worked great.

A Different Kind of Incubator - The Hive

I recently met with The Hive a new incubator in Orange County. This company was started by Victoria Duff (who many of us know from back in the late 90s), Phillis Lane (who I have known for quite a few years) and Jon Bukosky.

What I really liked in my conversations with The Hive is that they are willing to work with and fund ventures that would never get VC dollars. They are quite happy with a business that will turn into a profitable $20M company and don't necessarily need an obvious exit strategy.

This is something I've always wondered about. There's many good companys that will never turn into a $100M VC kind of company. What can they do for funding, where can they go for help?

Hopefully this is a sign of a new kind of ecosystem where there will be the possiblity of creating good start-ups that are not a classic VC kind of play.

About this Blog

I've been thinking about doing a blog with my thoughts on technology and what's happening in the Los Angeles area technology scene for a while, but it was Ben Kuo's recent start of a blog that inspired me to actually go ahead and do it. Thanks Ben.