Infopia raises $8 million

Congratulations to Infopia for closing on an $8 million funding round from Hummer Winblad and Trident Capital. Infopia is an ecommerce platform that helps customers get their products onto sites such as eBay, Amazon, Google, Overstock, Shopzilla and others. Bjorn Espenes and his partners have made some very powerful breakthroughs in e-commerce automation. This funding round is great to see.

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Blog Planets

I just got this email from one of our Provo Labs employees:

Although it clearly needs some CSS work, http://planet.provolabs.com is
now up and aggregating personal blogs from the following Provo Labs folks:

* Amy Rhoads
* Blake Snow
* Brock Blake
* Darla Seamons
* Gary Thornock
* Jeff Jordan
* Jimmy Zimmerman
* Judd Bagley
* Kory Hoopes
* Michael Eager
* Mike Smullen
* Paul Allen
* Phil Burns
* Trent Miskin
* Tyler Jensen
* Yvette Arts

Now I can just hit the Provo Labs planet everyday to see what all our people are posting. Or I can use RSS to my MyYahoo home page and see the latest posts at any time.

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Which multi user blogging platform to use

Blake Snow, our resident blog expert, has analyzed the pros and cons of several different multi-user blog options. We are launching a blog network for each of our Provo Labs portfolio companies. We aren’t necessarily trying to run a profitable stand-along blog network (although that has worked and will work for others) but we are trying to bake blogging into the DNA of all our companies.

Anyway, here is Blake’s assessment along with a link to his personal blog, Smoothharold.com.

Here’s the pros and cons of all feasible blog publishing platforms (that allow multiple blogs):

MovableType
Pros:

* 50 authors
* unlimited blogs
* publishes static html pages (better seo, portability on any server)
* Money-back guarantee for 30 days.
* Official technical support through Six Apart’s Help Ticket System
* Discounts on future upgrades
* one interface for all blog publishing
* included spell checker

Cons:

* Cost: $1300
* cumbersome install

WordPressMU
Pros:

* Built on the excellent wordpress platform
* supports multiple blogs
* unlimited users
* hosted code for tweaks and hacks
* free!
* included spell checker (plugin)

Cons:

* in alpha
* all sites need to be hosted on single server
* tech team has to hack a site stored on separate domain
* does not support one interface publishing

LifeType (Formally Plog)
Pros:

* supports multiple blogs (subdomains only)
* unlimited users
* hosted code for tweaks and hacks
* free!
* one interface for all blog publishing
* included spell checker (plugin)

cons:

* doesn’t support multiple domains (only subdomain blogs)
* all sites need to be hosted on single server
* needs additional install plugins for full functionality

Blogger
Pros:

* unlimited authors
* unlimited blogs
* publishes static html pages (better seo, portability on any server)
* Free
* most user friendly
* auto image optimization (don’t have photoshop images)
* included spell checker
* fastest publishing times (in my experience)

Cons:

* doesn’t support categories (yet)
* 3rd party publishing interface not hosted on our servers
* finicky comment system (need to use hacks for full transparency from blogger)

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Internet M&A Heats Up

A great article about internet acquisitions. Old media companies are putting up billions of dollars to buy high traffic web sites (MySpace, iVillage, etc.) so they can play in the new media space. This may be the best exit for internet companies for the foreseeable future. (Until sarbox regulations are lessened and the IPO market becomes practical once again.)

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Annual Report from China

The economic growth in China continues to be high, 9.9% according to Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2005 report. The goal for GDP growth in 2006 is 8%.

It is interesting for me to read a document like this that is so full of Soviet style language and formality but the news that is being reported in that language is so positive. Most of the Soviet era documents that I read while a Russian major in the 1980s were attempts to make a really bad situation sound great.

But the Chinese reality is a fast-growing economy and unprecedented global competitiveness. So to see that couched in government language like this is really strange for me. It still doesn’t quite compute for me (a conservative free marketeer) to see Five Year Plans actually working. Are they working because all the Chinese leaders are engineers (and not lawyers like here) and because information technology enables central planning to somehow work; or is the Chinese economy growing in spite of the Five Year Plans from the central government?

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VIPbloggers.com

Justin Bergener (a Junto Benjamin winner and former student of mine) has launched VIPbloggers.com and is already selling promotional spots. This site could become a very popular blogging directory, so that $10 for six months would be a great deal. Hey, it’s worth it just to see your own picture popup as your scroll over the pixels. Plus, Justin is a really nice guy.

Please sign up and help him out.

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Content Spending Reaches $2B

Content Spending Reaches $2B, Q4 a Record $534MM

Downloadable music and video purchases helped propel U.S. consumer spending on content to $2 billion in 2005, a 15 percent increase from 2004, writes MediaPost, citing new research by the Online Publishers Association. In 4Q05, spending reached $534 million – a record, and 13 percent more than the $472 million in 3Q04.

I’ve heard discussion recently about investors liking advertising-based business models more than subscription-based models. That cuts me to the core. It’s hard not to take it personally because I’ve been a content subscription marketer since 1997 and I still personally like that business model more than advertising.

But I’m certainly not opposed to advertising revenue, especially with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft competing aggressively for dominance in this space with demographic targeting and generous revenue-sharing with their publisher partners.

I think both ad-based and subscription-based business models work and will grow. The key issue for online businesses is creating or acquiring good content and building community around that content.

That is our main focus right now at Provo Labs.

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Utah 1, Silicon Valley 1

So yesterday Verisign bought Kontiki, a managed peer-to-peer broadband video streaming company for $62 million. I believe it offers similar value (low cost video streaming) to MoveMedia (which is not based on peer-to-peer), a company founded by Drew Major of Novell fame. Kontiki was launched a few years ago by some Silicon Valley veterans. I think its location was probably key to this acquisition.

Score: Silicon Valley 1, Utah 0

But today, a high school senior from Highland, Utah won $100,000 in a science competition sponsored by Intel. Second place went to a high school student from San Jose.

Score: Utah 1, Silicon Valley 1

(Okay, so you could say the score is $62 million to $100,000, but if Shannon goes on to win the Nobel prize (like 6 previous winners have done) then Utah could still come out on top!)

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Assistant for Every Employee

At Provo Labs, we believe in investing in employees. That means budgeting for technology they need (including blackberries), for subscriptions and online services that will make them productive, and for travel and conferences they need to attend.

But we are also considering investing in our employees by giving them each a corresponding full-time colleague/team member in Asia, so that at the end of each work day (if there is such a thing in our 24/7 world) they can hand off their projects to their partner in Asia, and come back to work the next day with their project having advanced by 8 hours.

We are using a service that finds employees in the Philippines right now, but we are also considering Brickwork in India. They offer analysts and research assistants, many of whom are Ph.Ds.

Has anyone used Brickwork in particular, or attempted to use this approach to make your U.S. based employees more productive?

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