Archive for the 'Startups' Category

The benefits of bankruptcy

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Robert Young at GigaOm: Bankruptcy: The Opportunity to Fail

A former mentor, and a very smart man, once told me that the greatest invention in this democracy and capitalist system we live in and know as the United States is, of all things, bankruptcy. Yep, bankruptcy… the opportunity to fail.

Simply put, we live in a country that encourages dreamers to take risks, and the laws protect those “entrepreneurs” from the potentially excessive consequences of failure. Bankruptcy laws enable risk-takers to protect themselves and start over. There is no other nation on this planet that by its very by-laws fosters such an economic environment. This spirit, the acceptance of failure, while counter-intuitive, is crucial to this country’s enormous success within the world economy.

Sure enough, a couple of folks from Germany weigh in (both are non-German):

Anne Koark says:

I am British and have been living in Germany for 21 years. In 2003 I went bankrupt with my company. Here failure is completely stigmatized. So much so that many entrepreneurs affected by failure are suicidal. …

Anon says:

… I’m also an ex-pat American living in Berlin, Germany. What this country largely lacks is the spark of originality and creativity coming from America’s entrepreneurs. As an American, you take all that for granted until you move away. Americans really have a knack for coming up with new ideas, and should be proud of this.

My fellow Germans: Unless we make it easy to fail, we won’t get anywhere.

Jaxtr private beta: Ready to take your phone calls

Friday, January 26th, 2007

I’m playing with Jaxtr:

Jaxtr was founded in October 2005 by Phillip Mobin and Touraj Parang with the mission to bring voice to social networks and blogs. With the free jaxtr service, users can link their phones with their online network to hear from callers worldwide while keeping their existing phone numbers private.

And jaxtr is not just about hearing from people who visit a user’s profile or blog. By adding their jaxtr link to their email signature, global friends can call our users on their phone with the click of the mouse – without downloading any software, incurring international phone charges or even registering for jaxtr.

When users change their work, home or mobile number, they simply add or update their number on jaxtr; incoming calls then get routed to the phone of their choice. They can even block callers from reaching them or specify on a per-caller basis which callers can reach them live and which get routed to voice mail. Isn’t that sweet?

Techcrunch did a little write-up in December: Jaxtr Widget Lets Social Networkers Chat On Real Live Phones

With the launch of jaxtr’s beta, the company also announced that LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke has joined the company as chief executive officer.

“There is nothing less satisfying than creating a social network page or blog and not getting a response,” said Guericke. “Social networks are a catalyst for people to meet, and jaxtr ‘jacks up’ the power of networks to help users make new connections. By putting a widget on their social network page or blog, jaxtr users can hear from callers worldwide on their existing landline or mobile phone.”

This thing is wired to my cell for now. Feel free to give it a try, just keep in mind I may be in a different time zone than you are (I’m on the West Coast).  Try not to wake me up in the middle of the night.
I get the feeling I need to switch to a three-column design soon to make space for all these widget things.

Widgets, Shmidgets?

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Valleywag says the enthusiasm for widgets is “entirely out of proportion to their importance” and gives five reasons why: Against widgets

4. Business model. Finally, enthusiasm for widgets is contributing to unhealthy internet hype. Some companies, such as Imagelooop, are raising money specifically to develop tools for Myspace users. Let’s get something straight here. A widget is an affiliate marketing program, no more, no less; the maker is entirely dependent on the tolerance of the page’s owner or a network such as Myspace. Any widget maker that tries to sneak in their own advertising — and most of them entertain such fantasies — will be swiftly slapped down.

Which is exactly what might be happening right now, as GigaOm reports: MySpace Blocking Widgets?

Our instinct on this one is that it is a test, and FIM is testing how far they can push the widget makers. Saber rattling is the word, but we would appreciate your feedback in realtime. If FIM does decide to erect a toll booth, well the widget economy is going to have its first fiscal crisis. We will follow-up with FIM and find out.

A few more ideas for what could work.

Tony Conrad on startups

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

A hybrid perspective: Tony Conrad, VC investor in Oddpost turned founder of Sphere

What lessons did you learn from Oddpost and other companies you have been involved that can be applied to any startup?


The lesson is: Always start with an interesting problem to solve. When you start, you don’t know if its a big market. The startup process allows you to better understand how big the problem is that you want to solve and to determine how big the market opportunity is if you solve the problem.


You have seen it as a VC and and entrepreneur, what are the top three factors that determine success of a startup?

I have worked with several startups as a VC and thinking back, I think some advice I got from Bill Draper early on, really works “Always bet on people, A-quality people won’t chase B-quality opportunities”.

StartupStories has more first-hand startup stories.

Via Thomas Gigold: StartupStories

StudiVZ company blog hacked

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Recently acquired German social network StudiVZ has had a number of security issues over recent months.

In an interview today (Jan 10) with German weekly Manager Magazin, Holtzbrinck Networks CEO Konstantin Urban said:

StudiVZ is a company that has grown extremely fast in recent years, has billions of pageviews, and has a need for massive server capacity. It’s not surprising that there were some technical problems during the time after the company got started.

Of course things had to be revamped, and StudiVZ has done just that. Data security has been established. A short while ago, Chaos Computer Club tried unsuccessfully to hack the system. The site is stable now. …

Translation mine.

Well, as for the security part of what he said, someone must have disagreed.

The official StudiVZ company blog, which is run on Wordpress, has been hacked. At 12.00am, Thursday morning German time, the following message appeared:

Dear StudiVZ folks,

The new official owner of your personal data, Konstantin Urban of Holtzbrinck Ventures, seems to know as much about data security as the wanna-bes whom you have entrusted so many details about yourselves in the past: nothing. He impertinently claims Chaos Computer Club has “unsuccessfully attempted to hack the system” and therefore everything is really secure now.

“Of course things had to be revamped, and StudiVZ has done just that. Data security has been established. A short while ago, Chaos Computer Club tried unsuccessfully to hack the system. The site is stable now.”


Unfortunately, that is completely wrong.

Chaos Computer Club does not participate in these types of “Why don’t you try to hack us?” gimmicks such as the contest announced by Studivz. Regrettably it sometimes happens that some morons claim to act “on behalf of CCC,” as may have happened in this case. However, this has nothing to do with Chaos Computer Club.

Chaos Computer Club is currently dealing with matters of greater importance, e.g. the lost trust in voting computers, the dangers of biometric passports, and the fight against total surveillance from data retention in telecommunications. Maybe you, too, have better things to do than to voluntarily throw your data at a profit-oriented collecting society, and you take care of your own life, the world outside, and the real problems of mankind.

Many thanks

This is a machine-generated message in the interest of public security. It is valid without a signature.

Translation mine.

Whoever is behind this message, at least we know they have a sense of humor.

The posting has been taken down (the entire blog has been offline for the past three hours), though screenshots are already available elsewhere.

Some bloggers speculate that this exploit was may have been used in the attack.

Over at the Blogbar, someone in the comments asks whether the attacker was able to access and change the admin password, knock on the doors of other databases, create dumps, manipulate data etc.

I guess we will find out soon.

Mistakes happen. And I’m usually all for cutting young startups some slack when something gets screwed up (and they do everything they can to fix it). But man, has this been a long series of security mishaps at StudiVZ.

Web Monday, January 2007: Bielefeld, Berlin, Kiel, Stuttgart, Vienna, Bremen, Cologne, Karlsruhe, Jena, Frankfurt, Silicon Valley

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

With a total of eleven Web Mondays, January is shaping up to be our busiest month yet.

You know what to do:

  • Mark your calendars, spread the word, bring your friends, bring your colleagues (heck, bring your boss)!
  • Share your insights, give a remarkable talk, or demo your hot, new, curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, patent-pending, world-changing, revolutionary, first-mover app!!
  • Have fun inventing the future of the internet!

January 15:

January 22:

January 29:

One of my key goals for the development and further growth of Web Monday in 2007 is better sharing across what will soon be 20 different locations.

I would like to take the opportunity and encourage everyone to make sure their demos, presentations and talks at every event get recorded or otherwise properly documented (photos, podcasts, videos — you name it) so we can make them available online.

Yes, Web Monday is about to get its own blog shortly (and podcast, I assume).

Happy New Year!

Startup ingredients 2007

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Three good articles this morning:


So, if you’re just now starting up, don’t get blinded by the successes of the first people to realize a platform could be built and operated on the cheap. You already missed that wave. Now, unless you are extraordinarily lucky or well-connected, you aren’t going to succeed in publicizing your new service and getting up to a critical mass of content or subscribers or both unless you raise or have enough money to create initial awareness or value. There is too much clutter from which you must emerge.


The thing startups have to spend capital on is this: time. Nuance and pitch-perfect user experience are going to sort winners from losers. That takes time, community engagement, trial and error, a team.


Tom may be onto something. In a noisy market, it gets harder to stand out.

But the real issue is the lemming-like clustering of products. Who needs another clipping tool? Another “I like this product” list manager? Another social bookmarking solution? Another web-based multi-headed instant messaging proxy? Another start page app?

There is so much empty space out there. Where are the CRM tools? Where are the financial apps? Why do all the inventors cluster so tightly?

I am hoping for a migration out into the white space, where no apps are. That will lead to less noise, for sure.

This is what I like most about the blogosphere: there is so much free consulting for your startup out there — you just need to listen carefully!

Deadpool II

Monday, January 8th, 2007


As for Peerflix, there is a German startup that is trying to carve out its niche in the swapping business as well: Hitflip, who are expected to hit 100,000 users within the next few weeks.


Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Looks like 2007 may turn out to be a little bumpy for one web 2.0 startup or the other:

Mike Arrington takes a minute to examine whether or not we’re in a new Bubble, Bubble, Bubble:

In Web 1.0 companies didn’t fail (until the crash). They just raised more money, at a higher valuation, and gave it another shot. That isn’t happening today. VCs are letting their startups die, as they should. Things aren’t as exciting as they were in 1999, but it’s a whole lot saner.

So every time a startup dies, I don’t think it’s evidence of a bubble about to burst. I think it’s evidence of a market that is working exactly as it should. Most companies fail, but enough win to keep the whole ecosystem healthy.

There you have it.