It takes a little while to get to the fun part, but this beats anything I can do…
Archive for April 2008
Ok, so it’s an impossible list to create, but try to think about a few bands from the 80′s that you would NEVER exepct to get back together for a new album 20+ years later. Either through death, drugs, arrest, conversion or whatever, there are bands you just don’t expect to see releasing a CD in 2008.
With this in mind I ask, how in the world did Whitesnake get a record company to greenlight a new project, cheesily enough called "Good to be Bad"? Anyway, that’s what’s playing on my Rhapsody right now, and I made it through song 1 without shutting it off. I have to listen to the whole thing just for the sheer shock value.
One of my favorite things over the past four years has been the UW Business Plan Competition. As a grad student, in 2005, I had two ideas and we went nowhere. In 2006, I jumped on another student team and we won "Best Consumer Product." Last year, I was a first round judge and merely observed the rest. And this year, thanks to the kindness of some of my favorite people, I was invited to judge the tradeshow round.
Quick moment of clarification for those who don’t know anything about this. Every year, about 60-80 teams submit a business plan. Some teams are made up of 4 students, some teams are established companies with a student consultant. It’s a broad range, so you see a lot of neat ideas. These 60-80 teams are whittled down to 32, who then fill a room and pitch their idea to about 100 judges in a tradeshow type setting. That list gets cut down to 16, then down to 4, and a winner is chosen. So, Wednesday, we had the tradeshow round of 32, and our job as judges was to "invest" 1000 fake dollars into at least 5 companies. You are free to split that 1000 however you like, as long as 5 or more companies are given money. The 16 teams who receive the most money move on to the next round.
Now, my favorite part about this whole competition is that since most of the people you talk to are undergrad, MBA or PhD students, they still have this sense of optimism and naivety. For example, you ask an undergrad with a dream, "What’s your exit strategy?" and his response is pure and good. He says, "Exit? We’re going to make this a profitable business. I don’t want to sell it. This is my idea, and it’s going to work." Wow, as a human being, you love hearing that. But then you have to crush his hopes and dreams, and invite him to join the real world. You have to tell him, "Well, here’s the thing. If I’m a VC, and I put money in, there better damn sure be an exit. Because I’m not really in the business of giving you a bunch of coin so you can build a company that doesn’t make me rich. You will sell, and you will sell when I tell you to."
Anyway, the whole thing is great. Wide eyed, naive students getting creative and coming up with some crazy cool ideas. It’s the kind of place that you walk out of wishing they all would get the money they need to build the product they want to build. Sure, there were some plain dumb ideas – but only dumb from the standpoint that they were unfundable. Every idea itself had merit. Even the ideas with terrible business plans and execution were at least interesting ideas.
I’m being lazy and not going through the whole list of companies. But here were some ideas that stood out for me. I’m not saying all their business plans were great, but the ideas stuck in my head
- A way to deliver medicine through the nose to the brain, to get cancer medicine pas the blood brain barrier.
- A company who developed a new strain of algae that they could farm for oil.
- An exercise device specifically tailored for people in retirement homes. A kind of "soloflex" for people in wheelchairs.
- A system for capturing excess carbon from buildings to decrease heating costs.
- A career web site specifically tailored to kids right out of school.
- A "match.com" for tradeshow attendees, where you fill out a profile, and the site suggests other people attending the show you should meet with.
- A company that produces organic clothing.
- A sunflower village in Kenya so villagers can earn money.
- A Web site for coaches to help them manage their teams.
- And other cool ideas….
Congrats to all the teams who made it to the next round. And I hope those teams that didnt make it, continue to tweak their plans and shoot for success.
No matter how scummy Clay Bennett has been to Seattle, there was a tiny sliver of me that thought, "He’s just an Oklahoma guy who wants to bring the NBA to his hometown. At least he’s a liar who has a constituency in mind."
Well check out this article from NewsOk.com. Apparently, Bennett is now holding Oklahoma hostage as well, demanding tax refunds on payroll taxes, or he isn’t bringing the team.
" Lobbyists schmoozed lawmakers at the state Capitol and some received telephone calls and e-mails from Sonics owner Clay Bennett and other representatives of the ownership team a day before the state House is scheduled to consider final passage of legislation that will give the team a rebate on a portion of payroll taxes it will pay if it relocates.
Rep. Charlie Joyner, R-Midwest City, who also voted against the bill, said he received an e-mail from Bennett that said the team might not come to Oklahoma City unless the House passes the tax incentive. "I just don’t think this thing has been handled right. That’s kind of holding legislators hostage," Joyner said."
(Before anyone gets upset, most of this is tongue in cheek…)
So, the latest ABC debate was such a debacle, for just a second, I want to think about what would happen if we tried to decide which car to buy in the same way we think about who to vote for.
Let’s say the most important 3 issues in a car are cost, safety and style. And let’s say the 3 most important issues in leading the country are the economy, national security and education. (You can argue this later, just go with it for now.)
Now let’s say I’m choosing between 3 particular cars. And I know what the most important issues are. But maybe I don’t really understand numbers so well. And safety reports are really confusing. The point is that I KNOW what the key issues should be. But since I’m doing this the same way I pick a candidate, I’ll ignore them. So what might I think and ask about?
- Well, I will probably want to ask how much money each company is making. I mean, I can’t support a company that is more successful financially than the others.
- Next, I need to ask where the people who built my car go to church. Who knows what kind of propaganda the employees might plant.
- Which Hollywood stars think my car is the right choice? They have nothing in common wth me, but if they would buy it, I should too.
- Plus, I have to thnk about a bunch of minor details that really don’t affect the core issues of the car. I need to look at what material the seats are made of, how big the steering wheel is, whether or not the parts were manufactured in the U.S. and how big the gas tank is.
So maybe this is gratuitous. But think about these ridiculous arguments. Is Obama’s preacher a crazy nut job? Is McCain’s wife a gajillionaire? Is Clinton more of a liar than every other politician? Who cares how we deal with China and Russia, will my gay friends be able to get married? And border security is not nearly as interesting as whether Obama *really* thinks unemployed people who lost their homes are bitter.
The point is, why aren’t we focusing on making candidates come up with extremely well-thought out plans for Healtcare, Iraq, schools and staving off the recession? Who cares about the stupid stuff?
Well alrighty. My first trip to Ad:tech San Francisco is in the books. They claimed to have about 300 companies exhibiting, and I think I talked to more than my fair share. So as promised, here are a few companies I thought were pretty interesting.
1) Without a doubt, the guys at AdReady.com were the hit of the show. A well funded company with a simple solution for a common problem. That’s a pretty good formula for success. Plus, I got to chat with a Senior VP. When a Senior VP is schlepping time on a show floor, it shows something about the caliber of people they hire. Check them out if you have a few minutes.
2) Before I go into all the companies that I walked away from thinking, “Wow, that’s cool,” let me throw out a caveat. There were a lot of future unemployed people at this show. My bubble alert would go off every time a company claimed they were a “revolutionary way to optimize your ad budgets” and you talked to some 25 year old who had just cut his teeth as a junior media buyer at a 3rd tier ad agency. I saw a lot of companies, none of which I’ll name, that seemed to have the strategy of, “Well we have a Series A, and we’ll get some Series B funding in 2010.” Except, there may not be any VC funding in 2010. Plus, everyone seems to have a strategy of selling to Google, Yahoo or Microsoft in 2 years. I think the best job you could get right now is a M+A guy at one of those 3 places…
3) Ok, some things I liked:
- SeeSawNetworks – Rep firm for all types of weird ways to advertise
- SproutBuilder – I didn’t quite get the full concept, but looked like a cool way to make widgets
- LSNMobile – Serving Mobile Ads, but in a cool way and they are profitable.
- IdeaLaunch – There were tons of companies offering Landing Page Optimization services. I can’t remember why, but I liked these guys.
4) Affiliate Programs and Networks – It was fascinating to me how many new affiliate networks are out there these days. Equally fascinating was the fact that all the big guys didn’t bother to attend the show.
5) Final shout of annoyance: I’m going to express a little displeasure toward the Rubicon Project. Only because, I RSVP’d for their party and they didn’t have me in the database, so I couldn’t get in. Probably my fault for not noticing the lack of a confirmation email. You see, since they weren’t sure if anyone was going to come to their party, they invited EVERYONE in the world. Then when more people showed up than they expected, they had to adhere to the RSVP list, which caused an issue of portraying themselves as an internet company who had a internet sign-up form that didn’t work. Now, I’m a nobody, so leaving me stranded outside is no big deal. And there was plenty of stuff to do so I didn’t really care. But here’s where I thought they looked kind of unpolished – the door people even refused to admit an extremely well connected CEO of a pretty strong VC backed company, while their own Marketing Coordinators and their friends drank free Grey Goose. Bubble alert – when your junior level guys are getting drunk at a party you are hosting, and you don’t have anyone senior enough at the door to let in a CEO of a company you should work with, you need to re-evaluate why you are throwing a party. Let your guys get drunk at home. Use Ad:Tech to talk to the CEO that wanted to talk to you. Or, I guess you can be that cocky and see if it works for you. I guess I just wouldn’t be that cocky in a recession.
6) Final note: I can only hope the Seattle light rail will be as efficient as the BART. I was off my plane, on the BART and in my hotel in like 45-50 minutes, for a $5.00 fare. Compare that to the $50 cab ride I would need to take to get home from Sea-Tac today. Love that BART.
Ok, one quick rant before I leave, because I’ve been meaning to write this for months and always forget.
I’m leaving for San Francisco tomorrow. There is absolutely no reason that I shouldn’t be able to logon to the Sea-Tac Web site and see the following things:
- How many total people have tickets bought for all flights leaving from my Terminal during the 2 hours before and 1 hour after my flight?
- How does this number compare to other days, and what % of capaicity is this?
- How long have the x-ray line queues been over the last 7 days at the terminal I’m leaving from?
- How long have the x-ray queues historically been the last 3 years for the 2nd Monday in April?
- How many people total have flown out from Sea-Tac this week, in comparison to previous weeks?
Why do I want to know this? Well, they have all the data. And I want a better idea whether I need to be there 2 hours early or 30 minutes early. I want to know if I’m going to be driving all over Sea-Tac looking for a parking lot that isn’t full.
The point is, an airline ticket is a luxury item, and here’s a really easy luxury service that costs almost nothing on a cost-per-customer basis. This shouldn’t be hard data to track and post. I mean, if it takes 1 man year of development time, and the airport serves 2,000,000 people, this comes out to something like a nickel per flyer. And I don’t see why or how it’s a national security risk.
Plus, think how it would aleve stress on the workers. The only stressful flyers are those who are surprised by long lines and who think they are going to miss their flight. These are usually the same people who are stressed at work and want to leave at the last possible moment. So why can’t we log-in, check out how long it’s "likely" going to take to get through the line, and decide when we need to leave? Heck, I might even start choosing flight times based on how long historically the lines are at different times of day.
Anyway, that’s my idea. Can someone get on this? Thanks.
I’ll be down in San Francisco this week at Ad;tech. If you are going to be down thre, make sure to let me know. And if you aren’t going to be down there, be prepared this week and next for tons of blog posts about new trend and companies in the Web marketing realm. We might actually get some real 1st person content on this little collection of ether….
Ok, you are Kobe Bryant, And until you lead your team to an NBA Title without Shaq Diesel leading the way, what else do you really have to prove? Well, maybe you can try to jump over a moving car. I can’t tell if this is real or fake. Common sense says no one would risk their career for a YouTube stunt, but then, Kobe is no common guy. So, you tell me…