Blogging from Stanford

My one day trip to California unexpectedly turned into two.

Yesterday Dave Bradford and I had an incredible half hour meeting with the
reigning VC champion of the world, Tim Draper.

He is amazing. He liked our ideas for FundingUniverse but he freely gave us an
even bigger idea, and our whole team is now on fire.

Dave and I left the meeting amazed at how much value he added in just a few
short minutes.

I first met Tim in 1999 when MyFamily.com was looking for our first venture
capital. He and Steve Jurvetson both liked our idea, but we ended up getting a
term sheet from CMGI instead. (Note: I am no longer involved at MyFamily.com,
except as a small shareholder.)

I have run into Tim and Steve a few times since and I have always appreciated
how personable they are.

To get half an hour with the guy who backed Skype and sold it to eBay for
billions is amazing.

So today I am hanging out at Stanford, my favorite thinking place in the Bay
Area.

I love the memorial church, built by Jane Stanford and dedicated to the glory
of God and the loving memory of her husband Leland Stanford.

I am blogging on my Blackberry from a comfortable spot nearby in perfect 70
degree weather. This is a heavenly place.

I get sentimental whenever I am here, thinking about how God has blessed the
world through the innovations and ideas that have emerged from Stanford
University.

Where would we be without Stanford and Silicon Valley that surrounds it?

One of the leaders of my faith talked in the 1920s about how God uses his
church
to save souls and how he inspires business leaders to provide material
blessings and technology to lift the world from a degraded condition.

Both groups, religionists and scientists, can enlighten and lift people.

Today I noticed that Nicholas Negroponte from MIT Labs says he is just a few
months away from delivering $100 laptops to kids around the world, purchased in
minimum quantities of 1 million units.

I have blogged about this before, but it is now almost real.

The day is nearing that billions of people will be able to access the worlds
online library of information and communicate with one another.

The potential good that can come from this is incalculable. Poverty and
illiteracy could be eradicated. Every human being could develop skills and
capabilities and live a worthwhile life.

But at the same time that unprecedented opportunities are emerging to the lives
of people worldwide, we face huge problems of greed, corruption, war, and
hate.

We also face a new selfishness, a new hedonism in the developed world.

One manifestation of this is the lowest fertility rate in the history of the
world. Europes population is disappearing because the desire to reproduce and
pass on values and opportunities to children seems to be disappearing.

Just a year or two ago I read a quote by Peter Drucker, the greatest management
thinker of the modern era, who said that negative population growth is the
single biggest challenge facing the civilized world.

Last week in my internet marketing class I paid tribute to Peter Drucker, who
passed away last weekend. And I challenged my 50 students to try to figure out
a non-governmental solution for the declining birthrate in Europe and parts of
Asia.

I suggested one concept, a Perpetual Civilization Fund, which I admitted is
probably a crackpot idea, that would provide secondary life insurance policies
for older people many of whom experienced large families and appreciate them,
and that the beneficiaries of all the insurance proceeds would be families who
are having their third child or more.

I know some governments are trying to provide financial incentives for women to
bear children. I do not know if they are working.

If you do not think this is a huge problem, read the book ?The Death of the
West? written a few years back. It relies on UN population forecasts to show
how the European population is disappearing.

The total fertility rate in some parts of Europe is 1.1 to 1.4 (it has to be
2.1
babies per female in order to maintain status quo population.)

In Nigeria it is 6.5. So the population in some poor countries is exploding but
in the developed world it is shrinking (except through immigration.)

I know the modern world has worked for decades on reducing population growth
because of the so-called Overpopulation problem identified in the 60s.

But the serious problem Peter Drucker points out — the declining population
problem — is far more dangerous.

So I wonder if a solution to this problem, will, like Google and Yahoo, spin
out
of Stanford or the world of business and science and step forth to save the
world.

(Maybe when cloning is here everyone will want to try it once or twice!)

Or I wonder if it will come from religion. In this world challenge, I am
betting
on religion, because hearts and minds will need to change.

Or maybe a powerful combination of science and religion.

What do you think?

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

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Versatile and bright book-keeper needed

Infobase Ventures is expanding our operation.

We need to hire someone to help us do accounting for all the companies that we
are incubating. This will be a part-time position, probably 20 hours a week.

We need someone who is excellent with Quickbooks and Excel, and who has
experience with online banking.

They have to leverage automation and technology to reduce overhead costs in
accounting.

The person must understand financial models, cash flow forecasting, and have
some experience with cap tables (keeping track of company ownership through
initial rounds of funding and stock option grants to employees.)

Over time, this position could turn into full time work.

The initial pay will be $12-15 per hour, but that is negotiable based on
experience.

I am thinking that someone in the BYU Masters of Accountancy program might be a
good fit, especially someone who wants to go into venture capital.

Please submit your resume or refer your friends to amy_rhoadsAThotmail.com.

We will pay a $100 referral fee to someone who helps us hire the perfect
candidate.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

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This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

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Best Days for Email

This is my first WordPress blog where I have included an image. Happily it was very easy to do.

I read a nice article that says Friday and Sunday emails get the highest open rates and click rates; while mid-week emails get the lowest. Here is the chart:

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Getting to 15,000 page views a day

Expert claims: do these 26 things and in a year your web site (built from scratch) will be getting 15,000 page views per day.

If you sign up for Google AdSense and your web site earns an eCPM of $5.00 (not that hard to do) on 15,000 page views then you site would be generating $75.00 per day in revenue.

Keep growing your site, say to 30,000 page views a day with a eCPM of $7.50 and your income will be more than $6,500 per month.

I wonder how many people have quit regular jobs and are able to work from home because of eBay first and now Google AdSense. I know quite a few people that are doing it. It might be a nice career option for a lot of folks.

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Yahoo and Google Weather Reports; Legitimate Search Engine Tactics

Yahoo is now issuing “weather reports” to update all of us when they are doing major reindexing of the web, or reordering of their search engine rankings. They post updates on their Yahoo Search Blog at ysearchblog.com. I am glad Yahoo is so open about their index updates.

Yahoo search relevancy seems to be improving a lot. I just did a number of searches on keywords for industries that I have worked in and consulted in, and the results are very good.

For its first few years, Google was under the radar screen of most internet marketers. Google results were pristine. Search results were incredibly relevant.

But since 2001, when people started discovering Page Rank and Link Popularity, millions of web pages have been designed and linked to by people trying to rank high on Google.

Google keeps trying to stay ahead, but as more and more people figure out what to do, it gets harder and harder to keep the search results relevant.

I remember a few months ago doing a search for a very major term and finding that the majority of the results were from SEO experts who were trying to make money as affiliates or Google AdSense partners.

There are legitimate SEO tactics, known as “white hat” which are simply proper ways to correctly design your web pages and attract publicity so that people will link to you. Matt Cutts, Google’s director of search quality, was interviewed in October 2005 and he shares his thoughts on the matter of legitimate search engine optimization.

Matt also does Google weather report updates occasionally on his blog.

I hope the time comes when Google, Yahoo and MSN are all completely open and transparent about why they include certain sites and ban other sites. They have so much power to affect worldwide commerce. I have seen reports of companies losing nearly all of their revenue when they get excluded from the major search engine indexes.

Snap.com, an idealab company that got $10 million in VC funding back in July, was trying to lead the transparency revolution.

I blogged about Bill Gross leading the transparency revolution last December.

But unfortunately, their stats page which used to show daily searches, number of advertisers, and daily revenue, is temporarily down.

Wouldn’t it be nice if search engine became transparent, so that legitimate companies with legitimate products and services could always know where they stand?

I know of one very good site that has 810,000 pages indexed by Yahoo, 170,000 by Google, and only 3,000 by MSN. I know of other sites that get tons of traffic from Yahoo or MSN but are banned by Google.

When sites get banned or ignored, most webmasters don’t know why and are not only puzzled by very upset. I just read about a perfume company in Canada that is furious at Yahoo and is badmouthing them all over.

I hope the day comes when sites will clearly know exactly what they have to do to be “white hat”. I hope that sites who have done things wrong or sites can have a clear and open path to getting reinstated.

I am guessing that some sites have even been banned because competitors have used spam tactics on their behalf to get them banned. I hate to think that this could happen.

An open system will, I think, prevent these kinds of things from happening. I think the first major search engine to embrace it will receive accolades from thousands of currently puzzled webmasters.

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Business Week Goof

This Business Week article about Google Analytics is confused and confusing.

The author claims that Google’s free analytics strategy “could spell disaster for search-engine optimization companies.”

But she doesn’t seem to know the different between search engine marketing firms, online advertising agencies, and search engine optimization companies.

She lumps everyone in web marketing that is not Google together into one mass and claims they are all in trouble.

Reputable search-engine optimization companies rely upon web analytics to know if what they are doing is working. The Google strategy might just save them money.

Search engine optimization firms design web pages that are optimized to get natural search engine traffic, not paid clicks. They don’t manage online advertising campaigns.

They get free traffic from natural search results for their clients by making sure pages are designed right, have the right keywords on them, and are deemed relevant by the search engines because other high quality sites link to them.

While it’s true that Google’s entrance into the web analytics space could have a very negative impact on some companies, I don’t believe for a minute that search engine optimization companies are among them.

If you can think of a reason why Google Analytics will hurt SEO firms (particularly since Google Analytics Terms and Conditions do not allow them to use analytic data from other sites to tweak their search engine algorithm or for any other internal purposes), please comment.

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My Three Week Absence

I miss blogging.

Three weeks ago my blogging software stopped working. I tried a bunch of things and couldn’t get it to work. So finally I called in my COO and asked him to manage my transition from Userland to WordPress. Phil Windley switched from Userland to Moveable Type, but Richard Miller convinced me to go to WordPress instead.

So I’m finally back.

And I am amazed by the things that have happened during the last three weeks that I’ve not blogged about. The pace of technological innovations continues to accelerate.

Here are a few headlines that I’ve missed commenting on:

1. Microsoft actually woke up. They actually finally get it! Apparently Bill Gates and Ray Ozzy are now leading the charge — they realize they are going to have to go head to head with Google. In fact, they have to adopt Google’s business model.

Microsoft’s Windows Live and Office Live announcements and their clear reliance on AdCenter for (their pay-per-click advertising engine that will do demographic targeting, something that even Google doesn’t do yet) has convinced me that they finally understand. Before Google can own the software world by building all the applications we need and giving them away for free (all subsidized by the super-efficient Google advertising machine), Microsoft is going to play the same game.

What this means for consumers is that most of the software we use in the future will be free (like web based email is today) and will be subsidized by advertising. Most of the ads will have to be unobtrusive, or else consumers will switch from Google apps to Microsoft apps to Yahoo apps. Whoever is less intrusive will probably get the most customers. This is all good news for consumers, but bad news for almost all other software companies.

2. Sun’s podcast announcement. I was amazed to read last week that Sun will be offering a commercial service within the next 2-3 weeks that will convert any document you send them to a podcast. I can’t wait to see this. I hope the computer voices are decent.

Combined with the analyst forecast that 945.5 million mp3 playing devices will ship in 2009, the Sun technology will make it possible, I believe, for knowledge workers around the world to identify all the content sources they want to master — most of it is in print format only right now — and consume it in text or audio format whenever and whereever they want.

I think the days of broadcast television and radio are numbered. I think it will become easy for consumer to customize own our reading, listening and viewing experiences. If the average person in the US spends 6-7 hours per day with media, over time we’ll migrate from watching or listening to what the broadcasters want us to consume, to creating lists or channels or sharing ideas with all our friends and family or coworkers about the best stuff that we want to consume.

Imagine Google Alerts married with all the text, audio and video that is published or broadcast or uploaded on a daily basis. We are entering an unprecedented era where humans will have greatest opportunities to become experts in any subject by being aware of all the best content in the world that is being produced on that subject.

It’s getting really, really close.

3. The Google Urchin announcement today means that any blogger or small web site in the world can now use fairly good web analytics at no cost.

The high end enterprise scale analytics companies, especially Omniture with its powerful data warehousing technology (which goes way beyond web-only data), have a long and prosperous life ahead of them. But Google will take the low end of the market pretty easily from all the small analytics players.

4. I met the evangelist for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an amazing web service that will enable publishers to have massive content projects created by distributing them to thousands of piece-meal workers around the world. Very cool stuff. Just in time for some of our big worldhistory.com projects.

5. Phil Burns, my COO, introduced me to Riya, the photo recognition software used for facial recognition. He is travelling to San Francisco next week for some Riya-related meetings.

6. FundingUniverse.com held its first speedpitching event on Nov. 8th in Provo and got a ton of media coverage (newspaper, radio and five minutes of television!) The press loved the notion of “speed dating meets venture capital.” I’ve gotten positive feedback from many entrepreneurs and investors.

Our network of angel investors and entrepreneurs is growing into the thousands. We are excited to take our speedpitching concepts all over.

6. I’ve also got some personal milestones that I haven’t yet blogged about:

I ran 13.1 miles on my 40th birthday — the longest run of my life — to prove to myself that I’m not too old and obsolete yet, and that, in Robert Browning’s words “the best is yet to be.”

I spoke on “Approaching Omniscience” at BYU’s eBusiness day and also listened to the other keynote speaker Josh James from Omniture give a great presentation about their industry-leading web analytics and online marketing platform.

I’ve hired a COO for Infobase Ventures as well as an executive assistant. We are working on leasing a few thousand square feet of space in Provo for our incubator and research labs.

There are so many other things to blog about, but rather than doing them all at once, I’ll get back into my old daily routine.

It feels good to be back. I look forward to your comments and emails.

Cheers,

P. Allen
Blogger

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