Paul Graham on the Venture Capital Squeeze – or will founders be able to get VC funding AND partially cash out ?

Paul Graham has a provocative suggestion in his post, “The Venture Capital Squeeze” [via Kevin Burton]: as they fund the working capital of a startup, VCs should consider acquiring a small portion of Founders’ equity in order to provide them with a (sometimes much needed) bit of cash. Paul’s thesis is that this would make “early take-out” offers from large companies less interesting:

Whatever they say, the reason founders are selling their companies early instead of doing Series A rounds is that they get paid up front. That first million is just worth so much more than the subsequent ones. If founders could sell a little stock early, they’d be happy to take VC money and bet the rest on a bigger outcome.

So why not let the founders have that first million, or at least half million? The VCs would get same number of shares for the money. So what if some of the money would go to … Read more »

Web 2.0: Top 10 Issues ?

Dion Hinchcliffe has posted a thoughtful piece on the issues he perceives with Web 2.0:

Excessive Hype Lack of Simple Definition  Aging Poster Children  Needing A Permaconnection Ajax as the Official Web 2.0 Experience Excessive Attention On The Technology  Really Bad Adherents  Blogging Instead of Doing Not Facing Hard Truths Adopting The Lightweight Creation Model Web 2.0 is too Silicon Valley focused (one commenter added)

Accepting the pragmatic fact that Web 2.0 is the new generation of the Web (the “Furrier definition”), #2 and #7 disappear.#1 and #8 are linked in sort of a virtuous circle. #4 is not an issue, it is good news – we need the next generation of the web to increase the penetration of broadband, as opposed to holding it back – Minitel anyone ? #3 is sort of natural: there are so many new services popping up all over the place that our attention is dispersed and noone service has made it to the … Read more »

The Facebook unplugged at Stanford ETL

I have attended last night’s session of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (ETL) program featuring Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO of the Facebook, and Jim Breyer, Accel’s Managing Partner who is sitting on the board of the company after his firm led a $13M round of financing (at a rumored $100M-ish post-money valuation).The Terman auditorium was close to full to hear these two share their stories and experiences about the Facebook and its stellar growth. I have written about it in the past right after their financing, and actually this post is one of the most visited on my blog. Also check out their TechCrunch profile (and do read the comments from Facebook users).

Before I get into the actual session, here is an update on their metrics – which are (increasingly) stunning:

5M+ registered users coverage of 45% of US colleges (a total of 2,000 – representing 8M students) 80% penetration among … Read more »

John Battelle interviews Omid Kordestani

I recommend reading John’s interview of Google’s Omid Kordestani, who also spoke at the Web 2.0 conference (see SearchViews’ account). Omid was the first sales/business person to join Google in 1998, and runs sales and global business development for the search&advertising giant.

There are some interesting nuggets of information in this piece:

[Kordestani]  has to manage relationships with agencies that want more control over their clients’ campaigns and with publishing partners who see Google as a prime source of online revenue — and a long-term threat to their media businesses. Once [Google] proved that the text ads on Google could be successful and not interfere with the search experience, then it really turned into a science. We applied auction theory to maximize value — it was the best way to reach the right pricing, both for advertisers and for Google. And then we innovated by introducing the rate at which users actually click on the ads … Read more »

David Beisel on Seven Questions Employees Should Ask Before Joining a Startup

David Beisel is bringing to us another great post in his Startups series: Seven Questions Employees Should Ask Before Joining a Startup.

As usual, very relevant and worth a read for anyone considering joining a startup. Amusingly, a friend of mine asked me the same question last night, as she interviewed today with the CEO of a young venture-backed company. I would add:

How is the company positioned in its ecosystem: client/users, partners/channels, competitors ? What are the 3 top reasons for clients/users to buy/use the company’s products/services ? How are our competitors funded ? If there is a major difference in stage or size of funding, enquire about the future financing strategy ? If the position is a senior one, ask to meet the VC/board members – if ever they were not part of the hiring process.

I had the pleasure to meet David face to face … Read more »

My first ZDNet column: Innovation 2.0

Recently, Dan Farber – the Editor in Chief of ZDNet – was kind enough to invite me to contribute to Between the Lines, the excellent ZDNet group blog. My inaugural post is now up: Innovation 2.0: Why Web 2.0 companies might have to flip to avoid being flopped, and I will be back every now and then.

Want the short version on Innovation 2.0 ?

Forget the innovator’s dilemna principle in the Web 2.0 world: established players (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft & al) are bringing in talents by hiring them away or acquiring their companies, and are playing catch up on new features and services at an unprecedented pace. The initial versions of what they produce are not always great and don’t really match startup products or services, but in a relatively short order, they get closer and closer. And since the “elephants in the room” know one thing – scale, they can intercept startups when these start facing scalability issues and … Read more »

Flying Song for the first time

Song is the low cost airline operation of Delta Airlines, sort of an in-house equivalent of Southwest Airlines or JetBlue from what I understand. I discovered the airline when shopping for tickets to fly to NYC for Blogon 2005: $292 for an SFO/JFK.

The airline flies single class Boeing 757 with comfortable leg room. Actually I am seating at an exit row and the leg room is *huge*. There is an entertainment system with 20 TV channels, pay per view movies at $5 a pop, games and a selection of a thousand-plus MP3 files.

You have to pay for the food which actually seems OK, and not too expensive, and only alcohol beverages are charged.

Staff is very friendly, with a jean and a cool flashy t-shirt (that matches the color of the cabin). Recorded safety instructions at the beginning of the flight are spoken by an Irish gal with a very thick local accent and Irish folk music playing in … Read more »

Facilitating a trade sale from the get go, or at least, avoiding any potential issue

Bill Burnham has again a great post regarding the things startups have to pay attention to in order to avoid any problem when they will be negotiating their exit through a trade sale. Summarizing Bill’s 10 rules, and adding my own twists, I should state one thing – even if I agree with Bill, many of these points are easier said than implemented:

Don’t take an investment from a company that could be a legitimate acquirer, and if you need to get a strategic investor involved, avoid side letters, right of first offer, etc. as much as possible Drag alongs are important (which essentially means that no single class of equity can block a sale) Limit the number of class of shares to 3, or recap to get down to 3. And if it takes more than 5 minutes to understand a cap table (who owns what) and a payout structure (who gets what, taking into account liquidation preferences, conversion prices and warrant … Read more »

Use Trulia for your next house hunt: Real Estate vertical search

I have just been pinged by the Pete Flint, the CEO of Trulia that their Real Estate search engine is now open for (beta) business. I had been aware of Pete’s plans for some time and found them interesting, but the implementation they have done is really very clean and easy to use: enter a Zip code or a city, and you get a list of houses and a google map showing their location. You can filter the results by price, number of bedroom/bathroom, price, sq footage, etc. Results also contain some statistics about average house prices in the neighborhood, etc.

Clicking on a house link gives you a detailed page, providing more information about the house, a link to the original listing, a list of houses that have been sold recently, etc.

Amazing! Go check this out.

PS: Sorry for the slow posting. Am just swamped. More later.



Merc: Silicon Valley losing its appeal ? Me: Nope.

According to this San Jose Mercury News piece, a Silicon Valley Leadership Group report ranks the region last among eight high-tech areas in quality of life.  The report, called “Daring To Compete: A Region-to-Region Reality Check,” will be officially released Wednesday. The leadership group compared Silicon Valley to Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Fairfax, Va.; Boston; Seattle; Austin; Portland, Ore.; and San Diego.

According to the Merc, in the seven categories examined, Silicon Valley ranked no higher than six. When it came to housing affordability, only San Diego did worse. Some data points:

Raleigh-Durham ranks first among the eight regions overall, thanks to its low cost of housing, easy commutes, good schools, and low unemployment and taxes. While all the tech regions were hit hard by the downturn, Silicon Valley continues to struggle with the highest unemployment rate. While Silicon Valley eighth-grade students have … Read more »

Google BlogSearch: forget authority, trust, link ranking and dust off the old tricks ?

Like a good portion of the blogosphere (it sounds like) I have been playing with the new Google blog search – which technically speaking should be referred to as FeedSearch since feed content is the basis of the indexing – but no matter. Danny Sullivan has been playing as well apparently.

The index contains about 2/3 months worth of posts, and Google claims that it will be backfilled as time goes. Since many feeds only list the latest n posts (10, 20, 50 ?), I am not sure how they will be able to do so – besides scrapping blog pages or extracting posts from the cache of their main index (?).

A few things caught my attention:

Tags and categories seem to be ignored in the indexing or the ranking algorithm. The content of the title field for both the blog and posts seems to have a high (if not disproportionate) degree of importance in the relevancy … Read more »

More thoughts on Memeorandum 2.0

I posted last night about the new version of Memeorandum being available, and why it looked really great, especially with the new Tech focused content aggregation. However, because my DSL is out of wack, I could not only get minimal access to the Net through my neighbor’s Wifi.

One of the things I missed is Gabe’s mission statement for Memeorandum: in Why does memeorandum exist?, Gabe lists these three objectives.

Recognize the web as editor: There’s this notion that blogs collectively function as news editor. No, not every last blog on Earth. Tapping the thoughts of all of humanity uniformly would predictably lead to trivial, even spammy "news". But today there are rather large communities of knowledgeable, sophisticated commentators, (and yes) even reporters writing on the web, signaling in real time what’s worthy of wider discussion. I want memeorandum to tap this signal. Rapidly uncover new sources: Sometimes breaking news is posted to a blog created just to … Read more »