Ourmedia vs Google; Wikipedia vs Britannica

Google announced that it will host personal video content soon, but Ourmedia.org (a non-profit) is already offering free permanent hosting of any personal audio and video content. Check out the Ourmedia.org Alexa chart showing its rapid growth.

If Google’s service is free and Ourmedia’s is free, the winner will be the one that is easiest to use or has the most features, or perhaps is best integrated into consumer habits. So the winner will likely be Google (because their usability is second to none). Google will make more money on this particular feature than Ourmedia because its ability to monetize traffic and eyeballs usings its brilliant advertising model is much greater than Ourmedia’s–therefore it is more sustainable.

It’s interesting when a non-profit or open source project becomes the most popular service in its genre. It forces commercial players to build additional value on top of the free or commoditized service in order to generate revenue. In the end, while it’s disruptive in the short term, in the long run, consumers benefit a great deal.

One of my favorite disruptions right now is Wikipedia, the open source encyclopedia which I have blogged about before. Wikipedia.org will soon become one of the top 50 most popular web site in the world soon. (It’s one week average is #80). I actually think it will hit the top 20 in the next couple of years. This site is a great gift to mankind. It already has more than 500,000 articles compared to Britannica’s 60-80,000, and thouands of improvements are made every day.

Wired Magazine posted an excellent article recently about the creators of Wikipedia–who some of top contributors are and what makes them tick.

One of the best books I have ever read is the Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. It is a fascinating account of the 70-year history of the Oxford English Dictionary. Comparing the OED story with the making of Wikipedia shows how dramatically the internet has affected the pace of knowledge creation and organization.

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Raising Private Capital–Powerpoint from Invest Nebraska

When entrepreneurs post business summaries on FundingUtah.com, I want them to be able to list what stage they are at in their companies development. So I needed to find out how the industry categorizes companies that are seeking financing.

I found a great powerpoint from InvestNebraska.com that outlines the types of private equity that are available for entrepreneurs.

I was disappointed to be reminded about how little venture capital flows into seed stage companies. The data shows that in 2003, venture capital went into companies as follows:

  • Startup/Seed Stage, 2%
  • Early Stage, 18%
  • Expansion Stage, 55%
  • Later Stage, 25%

Of course, seed stage companies need relatively little capital while later stage companies need very large rounds.

The funny thing, as I blogged recently, is that seed stage investors have a higher average return than later stage investors. But most investors seem to shy away from doing this.

A more encouraging data point for new entrepreneurs was that 52% of angel investments are in seed and early stage companies, but it was 66% in 2002.

The categories we are going to use are:

  • Idea Stage (pre-team)
  • Startup/Seed Stage (team is being formed, pre-revenue)
  • Early Stage (revenue, but negative cash-flow)
  • Expansion Stage (need more capital to cross the chasm)
  • Later Stage (pre-IPO)

FundingUtah.com is showing a lot of promise. What I really need now is feedback from the 54 angel investors who have signed up for FundingUtah.com. I want to know what we can do to help them make more money by betting on the right entrepreneurs and teams. We’re trying to get all FundingUtah entrepreneurs to join LinkedIn.com (and we link to their profile) so investors can quickly see who is credible. We’re also thinking of making it possible for entrepreneurs to do online video pitches, so that investors can get a feel for them before meeting them for the first time.

If you have any other suggestions on how an online matching service can help angel investors more, please let me know. We may be rolling out other state sites soon and a parent site, FundingUniverse.com. That will put us in competition with FundingPost.com and vFinance.com, among others.

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Google Promises Most Clicks for the Money

Google’s gaggle of Ph.D.s has added another yet intelligent twist on search engine marketing. Google’s new Budget Optimizer will manage your keyword bids in order to get the highest number of clicks possible given your AdWords budget.

As search engine marketers know, you can burn through a budget very quickly by getting in a battle with a major competitor for the #1 spot on a critical keyword. I read recently that at the end of a quarter where revenue targets might not be met, two well-known diet companies were paying upwards of $60.00 per click for weight loss keywords.

Now, Google will take some of the emotion and intensity out of the process of getting clicks from AdWords by using an algorithm to optimize your campaign for you. I don’t understand yet how this algorithm will work if there are say a dozen companies in the auto industry all bidding for the same keywords–how will Google optimize all of their campaigns at the same time. Optimization works best when you have “dumb” competitors who never change their bids or respond to what you do. Some smart SEO professionals have strategies to “trick” other bidders into going too high (and blow through their budgets) so that at the end of a month they can get sweet deals. Google’s approach might make some of these games and tactics obsolete.

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10 Finalists for Utah Entrepreneurial Challenge

The Deseret News reported today the 10 finalists in the 2005 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. They are:

  • Aculus Inc., which specializes in Web analytic software.
  • BilliardEx, which imports and sells pool tables.
  • CareXpress, which offers health care to people without insurance.
  • Cartoon Solutions, which offers customized animation for businesses.
  • eHealthCompete, which provides an interactive environment for employees to keep track of exercise activity and set up competitions.
  • HireVue, which has developed software that allows companies to conduct customized interviews over the Web.
  • Mirai Studios, which has developed a new style of video games.
  • Smart Tech Innovations, which has developed a new technology for medicine bottle caps.
  • Top Brands USA, which exports clothing from the top U.S. brands into the Ukraine.
  • Wasatch Microfluidics Inc., which has developed a technology that improves test results to better future drug developments.

I hope all these entrepreneurs will list their business summary on FundingUtah.com where there are more than $30 million in available funds from more than 50 angel investors throughout the state. Of course, not all of them are even seeking capital other than the $40,000 top prize they hope to win from this state-wide competition.

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Imagining the Future

You know what I love about the internet era? You use software and web sites and online services of all kinds, and when they aren’t perfect you can blog about what you wish they did for you. Then, sometimes within a few weeks or months, the new version appears — joila! — and addresses what you wished for. You don’t get the idea that your particular blog post was read by a particular decision maker at a particular company — so there’s no direct cause-and-effect relationship — but you do get the sense that your post, added to or compounded by other blogs and emails to the company, collectively made a difference, if not in the decision to do something then perhaps in the timing or prioritization of it.

So imagine how happy I was today to learn that the new version of Skype allows you to import your Microsoft Outlook contacts. Last October 20 I wrote:

I’m blogging to give Skype this advice: please allow me to import all the phone numbers in my Outlook file to Skype. I’m lazy. Often I use my cell phone (a Blackberry 7230 from RIM) to make phone calls because all my contacts are one click away. It’s almost instantaneous. I don’t like dialing 10 digits on a desktop phone. If Skype could give me one click access to all my contacts, my usage would skyrocket.

This reminds me of blogging in November 2003 about how Google needed a desktop search engine and then on October 14, 2004 blogging about how they had finally done it.

It feels great to feel a need for something, blog about it, and then watch it happen later, even if there was no cause and effect relationship.

Alan Kay said the best way to predict the future is to invent it. But maybe now the best way to predict the future is to blog about it, so someone else will invent it.

Economist magazine has a 14-page spread this week about how the internet has finally made consumers king, after more than 125 years of retailers giving lip service to the notion that customers are king, now they really are because they can arm themselves with all the information they need before going into a store to make a purchase. Ford reports that 8 of 10 car buyers already know the model they want and the price they are willing to pay before going to a dealership.

As importantly, consumers can now have a greater voice in influencing the development of new products by using the internet, email and blogs to reach product developers with their opinions.

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EContent Magazine

Last night I read the latest issue of EContent magazine, one of those underrated and little known publications that always has a treasure trove of information about content businesses. From my days studying library science I acquired an interest in certain magazines that no one else I know seems to know about. I highly recommend this one.

Here are the topics I need to learn more about:

  • Aptimus Network offers a revenue optimization solution for publishers. Has anyone compared this to Google AdSense? Which generates a higher effective CPM?
  • How SMS was used after the Indian Ocean 9.0 Earthquake for emergency response
  • Singapore’s IDA and Games Bazaar
  • OneSource Express competes with Hoovers Online to deliver leads and info to sales and marketing teams
  • Storyofmovies.com and the Film Foundation: preserving old films
  • FeedBurner: keeps metrics on 25,000 RSS feeds (Just today I learned they raised $7 million in new venture funds)
  • How Infoworld monetizes RSS feeds
  • LockerGnomes’ 150 tech RSS feeds
  • Technorati offers a free watchlists (30,000 have signed up so far) for marketing and PR people who want to track competitive intelligence and mentions of their own company and products in the blogosphere. They have a premium version as well. (I’m going to try this out.)
  • NewsGator has a premium RSS bundle with content from 8 publishers and it is “going well”
  • Sony Librie (in Japan), the first epaper product, now enables users to “print” any content from the web (or any software application) and read it on their ebook reader. There is a whole article about the future of epaper. Within 3-5 years the cost of manufacturing epaper will be so low that they are predicting that we’ll be watching digital content on our cereal boxes as we eat breakfast.

Those are the things that caught my attention yesterday.

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Tim Sanders Changed My Life

Love is the Killer App, by Tim Sanders, changed my life by showing me how to imbue my business life with love and compassion and unselfish sharing of knowledge and social contacts in a conscious effort to help others, without expecting anything in return.

Since reading his first book I have stood more to greet people when they enter a room, warmly shaken more hands and given more hugs, made sincere eye contact with more people, read many more books, marked them up and made a personal index to the big ideas they contain, and have introduced more people to books and to people I know that can help them than ever before.

About 2-3 times a week I used LinkedIn.com to help people connect. But more importantly, I met new people almost every week and I have a genuine and conscious interest in helping them.

I’ve never met Tim or heard him lecture in person, but in case he sees this, I just want to give him my personal thanks for blessing my life. And I think everyone in business must read the book Love is the Killer App and live by it. Hey, I even know a local VC who loves this book. Can you imagine what a world we could build if all the VCs and entrepreneurs out there lived by the principles in this book?

Last year I signed up for Tim’s email list, and yesterday I got an email which led me to order his new book, The Likeability Factor, and also another book he recommended about business networking, Never Eat Alone.

This reminds me that email marketing still works, when the email comes from a trusted source, and recommendations by experts still cause me to get out my wallet.

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Best Online Contest in a Long Time

LogoWorks, a fast growing Utah company that just hired one of my friends as VP Marketing, has launched what I think is one of the best and most clever marketing campaigns I’ve seen in a long time. In conjunction with Entrepreneur magazine, they are trying to find the Ugliest Logo in America. Everyone who enters the contest is a perfect potential customer for the company.

LogoWorks has one of the most innovative, internet-enabled business models I’ve seen, and mark my words, they are going places.

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