Archive for March, 2008

1,000+ Unread Feeds Is Also An Opportunity For An Entrepreneur

blog moved to www.leo-chen.com Earlier this week, Michael Arrington posted an article on TechCrunch complaining about the frustration of dealing with an overflow of emails (2,433 unread in his inbox to be exact). Though I don’t have that problem and am fairly diligent when it comes to responding to emails, I think it would be great to have Outlook auto-prioritize emails by keywords, contact, frequency of email exchanges with contacts, subject line, topics, etc.

Jealous Thankful that I don’t have 2,433 emails in my inbox, I ran into a similar problem in my Google Reader. After falling behind on one day or reading, I ended up with 1,000+ unread feeds the next morning.

GoogleReader - 1000+

Typically when this happens, I just scan through to my favorite feeds, scroll through a few unread articles, then click “Mark all as read” to start with a clean slate. Here’s a few problems with this method:

  • I miss out on great articles in feeds outside of my 3-4 favorites
  • Even in my favorite feeds, I end up wasting time glancing through entries I don’t particularly care for. I don’t have much interest in a random article on a stranger’s favorite music and I’m sure many people don’t really care about me bowling a 300 on Wii. Some blog entries are meant for close friends and a small niche of the readers.
  • High volume feeds (e.g. Engadget, Gizmodo, KillerStartups) with 20-50 daily posts quickly become overwhelming and I quickly retreat to the “Mark all as read” button

So here’s another opportunity for an entrepreneur – make a feed reader that filters & prioritizes feeds based on user defined settings. I would like to see the following features:

  • Feed ranking (allow users to rank their feeds)
  • Keyword filters (e.g. Engadget.com – show me posts on PS3, Wii, Macs, Phones; I really don’t care about the Pleo, OLPCs or Chinese knock-offs)
  • Tag filters (many bloggers have their own set of categories/tags for each post, I care about ‘startup advice’, don’t care about ‘tvshows’)
  • Filter articles under a certain length (80% of the article under 200 words are crap, might as well use Twitter for those)
  • After applying these user defined ranks & filters, group all these feeds into a single tab

If Google Reader has these functions, I’d almost pay to use it. If you know of a feed reader out there that already have these functions, please tell me (but don’t tell them I’d pay to use it). If you have any other ideas for features, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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Speeding up IE on your ThinkPad

Quick 2-step solution on something that’s bothered me for a while…  

Most tech geeks love MacBooks but I can’t let go of my ThinkPad. I love the clean, utilitarian and minimalist look which many hate but that’s not why I’m so attached to my ThinkPad. It’s the “nipple” mouse cursor on the keyboard that’s got me hooked. I’m so much more efficient with the “nipple” than using a touchpad because I don’t have to take my hand off the keyboard to perform simple, low accuracy, clicks & drag.

thinkpad_nipple.jpg

Anyways, one problem that’s bothered me for the longest time since I got my T61 is the lag when IE7 boots up. Every time I open a new window or a new tab, there’s usually a 2-5 second lag before anything loads. Initially I thought anti-virus software was the culprit so I disabled all the background processes that weren’t mission critical but the problem persisted. After a quick search online, I found the solution. The lag is due to the ThinkVantage Client Security directories and here’s how you disable them:

1. Go to Tools > Manage Add-ons > Enable or Disable Add-ons…

thinkpad_manageaddons.jpg

2. Find the CPwmIEBrowserHelper Object and disable it… that’s it, simple as that.

thinkpad_manageaddons2.jpg

WordPress blocked in China… but so is everything else…

China_noblogs

This may not be news to others but it’s news to me and I’m very annoyed by it. A friend of mine just messaged me from China saying he can’t access my blog. Searched around on Google and of course, China’s net army blocks all access to WordPress blogs. My immediate reaction was, if I had known, I would’ve gone with Blogger or Typepad instead of WordPress – that definitely wasn’t on my price performance checklist. A little more Googling and I found out that Blogger & Typepad are also blocked in China – not surprised but still very annoyed! I guess the easiest way to get around this is to host your own blog and steer clear of posting any Tiananmen Square pictures (oops!).

Startup Tips from MIT Venture Forum – Part 1

Last month I attended a MIT Venture Forum here in Seattle and the topic was “Ten Steps to Launching an Early Stage Company”. The speakers were Jonathan Roberts of Ignition Partners and Stan Shull of Intelligent Results which was recently acquired by First Data. I’ve been meaning to write about my thoughts & what I learned and finally sat down to do it. Instead of laying out all 10 steps, I will layout the main bullets and integrate my thoughts to make it relevant for consumer applications. Jonathan & Stan both work mostly with enterprise software so the presentation was more enterprise focused but I think the same advice is equally valuable & applicable to consumer internet startups.

Key Takeaways:

  • Determine who your customer is and what they want to buy
    • Don’t be disruptive
  • Secure first customers – deep is better than broad
    • Focus on engaging first customers rather than aggressive customer acquisition

I strongly believe that understanding who your customers are is the most critical step to building a profitable business. And by customers, I don’t mean the end users that get your product for free – focus on the paying customers too. Whether it be advertisers, subscribers or whoever, it’s important to understand the following at a granular level:

1.      What’s your vision for monetizing your product? (don’t just say “targeted advertising” and be done with it)

2.      What’s the addressable market and how quickly is it growing?

a.      How much of that market is actually your addressable market? (if you’re selling targeted advertising online, don’t include TV & print ad spend in your addressable    market)

b.      What’s the penetration and how quickly is that changing?

c.       Realistically, how much share can you gain and how quickly? (if you tell me you can take 20-30% market share in 1-2 year, I’d have a hard time believing)

3.      Why are you better than your competitors? (in consumer apps, you have to be better at appealing to users & paying customers if they’re not the same people)

a.      Who are your competitors?

b.      How much incremental value are you adding to existing solutions?

4.      What’s most important to your customers? (this better align with your answer to 3)

5.      What’s the sales process / sales cycle? (who’s actually making the final decision)

a.      What’re the barriers to sales? (existing contracts with current vendors, typical replacement/upgrade cycles, etc.)

b.      Jonathan believes you need six customers before you can replicate the cycle

If your only exit strategy is to get acquired and not actually generate any revenue, then figure out who you’d ideally want to be acquired by and treat them as your customer. Understand:

1.      What kind of acquisitions have they been making?

2.      How do you fit into their acquisition strategy?

3.      How much value do you add to the acquirer’s strategic vision?

4.      What are their competitors doing that they haven’t noticed yet?

5.      How do you shape your product so they can leverage it compete?

One of my favorite points is when Jonathan said “don’t be disruptive – don’t try to create something revolutionary”. It’s a bit counter-intuitive at first but quickly made sense. He explains that if you make something revolutionary, then don’t expect customers to buy it like hot cakes because it’s a much tougher sell – most successful companies makes products that are improvements of predecessors. (e.g. Microsoft improved on Lotus products, Facebook on Friendster, Google on search, etc.) Why is it a tougher sell? Because people like products they’re familiar with, products they’re already spending money on. If your product requires your customer to allocate new budget for, you must convince them to slash budget elsewhere. If your product is revolutionary, most customers will view it as a “nice to have”, not a “need to have” – “need to haves” are much easier to sell.

A lot more was talked about which I will follow up in later posts. Let me know if you agree or disagree with these thought or if I’m missing anything…

Live Super Marios Bros – too good to not share

Hedley, our awesome developer, sent me this and it’s among one of the funniests videos i’ve seen in recent memory. Enjoy! 

Best headline of the day…

Venture Beat - Meebo raising round, valued up to $250 million. Bear Stearns sold for $236 million

Original Article

Adam & Leo on Startup Junkies – Season 2???

© 2008 iN DEMAND L.L.C.

Just walked out of an intro meeting with the producers of the show Startup Junkies which airs on MOJO TV – we’re exploring the possibility of starring in the show next season. How exciting! Initially, we contacted them after reading a post on John Cook’s blog about Screaming Flea Productions recruiting startups for their new season and thought we’d be a good fit.

I first came across the show while channel surfing one night (Comcast channel 664 for those of you in the Seattle area). It’s a good show to see the ups & downs a startup goes through and the atmosphere they work in, especially if you’re new to the industry. The current season features another Seattle based startup, Earth Class Mail, and documents the company’s struggles with product development, deployment & fundraising. Earth Class Mail is a well funded startup with a seasoned management team but the show is looking for some variety next season with a younger & less experienced crew (sounds like us). They have all their episodes on their website so feel free to tune in. We actually saw Ron Wiener (CEO of Earth Class Mail) at a MIT Venture Labs seminar last month but didn’t get a chance to talk to him.

Overall, the meeting went well and I think it’d be cool to get a chance to be on reality TV. As expected, we were asked about our marketing & fundraising plans as well as other potential checkpoints in the business where we can expect to see some drama. After all, this is reality TV and it’s no fun for the producers or the audience to see everyone holding hands and skipping along in a sunny garden with jolly smiles (then we’d be Teletubbies). It’s still early in the selection process so I’m not getting my hopes up too high and not quite sure what to expect out of the experience. On the plus side, we’ll get some great PR from the show and be able to leverage MOJO’s marketing engine – on the flipside, we’ve never had cameras in our lives so it would be “interesting” (for lack of a better word). Either way, I think it would be a fun experience if we end up doing it…


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