Category Archives: publishing

Bit Part: Social Networks as Social Media

Social networking and social destination sites by and for social networking alone just don’t cut it. People get bored with networking  for networking’s sake: there needs to be a focus point or focal points beyond simply socnet.

Om Malik has glommed onto this thought I had way back in the mists of time, circa August 2005 and now asks: Are Social Networks Just a Feature?

In Yoick’s view, successful web communities have at their core, a set of pursuits or strange attractors – these pursuits work best if they deliver some benefit from interactions between members of a community…the higher the usefulness factor, the more compelling an attractor.

To sum up, I agree with Om. Yoick is essentially building an “integrated community entertainment platform”, a term borrowed from Andrew Littlefiled, CEO of Doppelganger. Within this ICEP, the social networking aspects are critical as part of the community journey, but they are not the sole destination.

Virtual Venture Wrap: Doppelganger goes to C

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Doppelganger, a San Francisco-based virtual world company has raised a Series C funding round of $5 million from Greycroft Partners.

CEO, Andrew Littlefield, prefers to call them a community entertainment company that builds virtual environments for the rest of us, aka non hardcore gamers.

Doppelganger initially raised a Series A of $2.5 m from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and a Series B of $8.5 m from Trident Capital, DFJ and Draper Richards. That’s a lot of dough for a virtual world play – but when you consider it costs them up to $250k to build one of their inworld characters you understand where the money is going. Hey guys, ever heard of user-generated content…

Andrew sees the market for 3D environment vendors to be akin to the nascent cable market. He sees Second Life as focusing on the older sci-fi demographic whereas they are angling to be the 3D MTV, with Habbo Hotel the Nickolodeon. Neat analogy.

At Yoick we agree that these interactive spaces will act mostly as a connection manager (the first C in CICS), at least initially, and we also agree that they will reach similar sizes as MySpace.

Venture Wrap: LinkedIn, ROO and Headsprout

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In venture news this week, professional networking site, LinkedIn, has raised $12.8 million from Bessemer Venture Partners and the European Founders Fund. The post money valuation placed on the Palo Alto company was a cool $250 million.

The funding will be used to allow them to experiment with new products. They’ve recently been trialling LinkedIn Answers – a user gets to ask her contacts business questions – and launched LinkedIn Experts earlier this month – users can submit requests to experts for advice.

Seattle-based kids online learning company, Headsprout, has raised $8 million from Kaplan, an educational company, to focus on putting an end to illiteracy. The company was set up in 1999 and initially raised funding from Sofinnova Ventures, the Raisin Fund and Roser Ventures.

On the acquisitive front, News Corp. is reported to be making a $12 million investment into ROO Networks, a listed company that provides digital video solutions. Michael Arrington has picked up on the fact that this is not through Fox Interactive – who, he says, have been having separate conversations with Brightcove, a competitor to ROO.

Former Fox Interactive head, Ross Levinsohn must be shaking with laughter.

Fox is also said to be in talks to acquire ad optimisation company, Strategic Data Corporation.

Global Peace: Google Joins China At Rockbottom

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If the Global Peace Index were to apply not only to countries, but also to companies, Google would be joining China at the very bottom ranking.

No-one should’ve felt comfortable with Google’s decision to entertain the censorship demon that is China back in 2005, but Sergey Brin’s recent comments at Davos just scored them a big fat zero.

In answer to a question whether he regretted Google’s decision to modify its search engine when they launched in China, Sergey said, “On a business level, that decision to censor…was a net negative.”

Hang your head in shame, Sergey. From a business point of view, Google.cn has been a disaster – get over it. Correct your status as a brand that stands above evil or be done — you are already on a slippery slope.

Michael Arrington sums up the feeling out there…Google isn’t saying they regret the decision because it was the wrong thing to do, and helps prop up a government that continues to violate the human rights of its own people…Google needs to say they regret working with the Chinese government because that government is evil, not because it turned out to be a ‘net negative’ business decision.

Widgblogging: it’s more than its content

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The New York Times has a piece regarding the rise and rise of widgets and points to what we’re calling Widgblogging – blogs that are predominantly made up of widgets and for which the posted content is relatively peripheral. Widgblogs are, like any mashup, the sum of their parts, and – like any mashup, it’s the mix that determines if the sum resonates with the blog’s readers or not.

 Jeremy Liew, over at Lightspeed Venture Partners, has a great post on the NY Times article. We’ve also Techcraunched Jeremy.

Evan Williams: Jet Packs and Telepathic Blogging -it’s Obvious

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We recently caught up with fellow hyper entrepreneur, Evan Williams…and asked him some questions regarding multi-product, sustainable companies (we’ve riffed on this here and here), life, stuff and the future. 

Rand: You’ve done some classic serial entrepreneur stuff, you co-founded Pyra Labs (Blogger) and sold the company to Google, started Odeo, bought your VCs out and founded Obvious – what do you view as your key takeout from your experiences to date?

Ev: Trust your gut. Work hard. Screw up. Get over it. March on.

Rand: Obvious is, from my perspective, an attempt at building a sustainable, multi-product company rather than a single product/app quick flip, or as Ben Barren coins it – a product factory. Tell us a bit about your thought process in deciding to do Obvious, your strategies for success and the landscape you are journeying through.

Ev: Several things led to the thinking behind Obvious. One is that there is now an opportunity to create useful, fun, interesting sites and services that can make money but don’t necessarily require (or, in some cases, deserve) the overhead of a whole company (especially with the expectations of funding and cash-out events).

By building things cheaply and quickly — and sharing overhead, technology, and knowledge where it makes sense — a company that owns many of these sites could be both fun and viable.

Secondly, the web is so crowded these days, some really cool stuff doesn’t get serious attention, because it’s hard to distinguish from other sites and services — or people just don’t know about it. So we hope to create a network of properties, that can both serve as a launchpad for new products and as a way to lower the barrier for new users ( for example, by having their data already available to it, if they so choose).

And third, we wanted to create an environment where wacky ideas could be tried without having to justify or explain them to a board, or investors, or anyone else. Some of them won’t go anywhere. Once in a while, the wacky idea will be just what the people didn’t know they were missing in their lives.

Rand: If we use the film studio analogy, each of your products would presumably have an executive producer. How do you ensure that these folk are imbued with sufficient entrepreneurial fervor so that they embody the best attributes of a startup CEO? 

Ev: I’m not sure yet. I do think the “executive producer” role, as you call it, is key. A lot of people want to pursue lots of ideas, because they can’t constrain themselves to one. The easiest way for us to screw up is to go in too many directions at once and, even if we have good ideas, not be focused enough on them.

Your first assumptions about anything are usually wrong, so you have to find the right balance between throwing things at the wall and seeing if they stick and iterating diligently ’til you get it right. So we want to make sure that the individuals in Obvious, who are leading projects, are able to focus, at least for a significant period of time.

I don’t think a project lead has to have all the same attributes at a startup CEO — they don’t have to worry, for instance, about raising money or many operations issues. But they need to be self-organized, an organizer of others and have excellent product sense.

Rand: How do you see the space playing out over the next 18 months and what will Obvious look like by then? 

Ev: Part of the philosophy behind Obvious is that we have no idea how things are going to play out. No one ever does, really, the difference is we don’t pretend we do.
Rand: Shoot the arrow forward – what’s your view of the future 5 years out? 

Ev: Jet packs and telepathic blogging. Those things are a given. Other than that, I dunno. What seems to stay true is that everything gets more complex and opportunity breeds opportunity. And the things that drive humans to do things don’t change that much: self-expression, convenience, personal gain, human connection (or the approximation thereof) etc. will continue to drive the online world.

There will just be new and more fascinating ways to do everything.

Second Life Goes In Search Of Its Voice

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Second Life sees voice as an important tool for its residents. According to the virtual world’s creator, Linden Labs, their development path is focused onhaving both voice-enabled avatars so you can simply walk up to someone and engage in a conversation and allow for spatially aware multiple voices so that you can walk through an area and hear people speaking with their voices emanating from where they are in that space.

In an interview with IDG News, Joe Miller, Linden Lab’s VP of platform and technology development also noted that they have a significant initiative under way to make inworld search more natural and visual.

Joe also mentioned they have created an API which will allow their business customers to create their own front porches into SL. Not my favorite analogy, but this is an important development. In fact all three initiatives are important as SL has copped a lot of flack for its clunkiness. Marketing and hype is one thing, but happy users is a whole other ball game.

Let’s end with a great quote, which we strongly agree with…We believe that multiple-user virtual environments are just in the beginning stages of their existence…to create communities, commerce and a permanent place for ourselves.