Thursday, September 04, 2003

God bless the Fox Network. They have created the most awesome show ever created in the history of mankind: Stupid Behavior Caught On Tape.

Now you too can witness horrendous injuries in all their hilarious glory! My favorite so far is the alligator wrestler whose quarry bites down when he sticks his head between its jaws.
Here's a question: Why is it that all the cool electronics come from Asia? Does the US face a "cool gap?" Discuss amongst yourselves....
A quick follow-up on my location-based dating idea from Noah Mercer:

"As an FYI, the special purpose dating devices you describe already exist. They're used in (where else?) Japan, and young folks will enter some sort of personal information. When their device gets within 10 ft (+/-) of a device with compatible information it will flash and buzz, prompting the user to track down someone in the area who also has a buzzing, flashing device. I think that NTT DoCoMo also offers a cell phone based version of this. Why, why, why can't we have location information available for our cell phones?"

This seems like it would be a killer app for someone focused on selling cell phones to teens and young adults, like Virgin Mobile. How about it Mr. Branson? You could have a service that actually *helps* people lose their virginity.
I've been following the Friendster saga since the beginning. I met Friendster CEO Jonathan Abrams shortly after Friendster had started its unofficial beta (he chairs the Venture Finance SIG for SDForum, while I chair the Founders Forum SIG), and even then was impressed by his focus and clear thinking. Jonathan did his homework before starting Friendster.

Side note: I have to admit that I didn't like the name at first, but it's starting to grow on me. And it has just the right vibe for Jonathan's strategy.

Since then, I've followed Friendster's meteoritic rise, including the capstone of pop culture, an appearance in the Shaw Report in Entertainment Weekly. But as sure as gravity, a meteoritic rise draws an inevitable backlash.

Slashdot was the leading indicator, running a story on the grievances of fake Friendsters (e.g. Homer Simpson) whose accounts were getting nuked from the system. Just this morning, Mike Masnick's TechDirt was saying that he still thought Friendster was a fad.

As frustrating as this backlash might be for Jonathan, I think it's a good sign. After all, I can remember when I heard people saying of eBay, "How can you build a billion-dollar company on selling Beanie Babies!" Friendster understands that human beings will expend outrageous amounts of effort to satisfy their urge to mate, and that the killer app of the Internet is getting some. While the porn sites might offer a substitute, Friendster helps you get the real thing, and that's something people will pay for.

Another side note: I'll throw this challenge out to the Social Networking companies. What I really need is a way to understand how I'm connected with the people that I meet.

For example, I'm a Stanford and HBS alum. That connects me to a lot of people in the Valley. But unless folks volunteer that information, I'd have to go online and manually look up each person that I meet to see if they fit into one of those two categories.

I'd love it if there was an automated way (maybe with this FOAF standard that I keep hearing about) to trace the connections and things in common with everyone that I meet.

The final step would be to bring this connection manager into the offline world. Imagine if you created a Bluetooth device that could communicate with other similar devices to project your profile and check it against those of other people in the same physical space. With this device, I could walk into a crowded room, and know which people were fellow alums of my schools, had the same interests, etc., etc.

The implications for dating (which I don't care about, since I'm married) are even weightier. Imagine if Friendster partnered with a nightclub. You could hand out the devices at the door, and people could program in their Friendster profile (or generate one on the spot). Then, as you came into physical proximity to people that were good matches, your Bluetooth device would lead you right to them.

This would fulfill a long-held fantasy for most guys: to know which girls were "taken" so that we wouldn't look like idiots when we approach them, or even worse, get stuck talking with someone whom I know I won't be going home with at the end of the evening.

Just a thought!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

As they say in the hip-hop world, I want to give a shout-out to Karae Lisle.

Karae is a fellow HBS grad whom I met through my volunteer work with the Computer History Museum. She deserves mad props for being an energetic, hard-working, no-nonsense contributor, even in her volunteer work.

As an OG who's run a couple of volunteer organizations, I know that when you find a peep like this, you don't let them go.

In her spare time, homegirl also runs a sales and marketing consultancy, Wellbourne International. If she's this dedicated to her non-profit work, I can only imagine how hard she rocks her paid assignments.

Alas, unlike the old lady in Airplane!, I don't speak jive. All slang in this entry was stolen from the honorable Herbert Kornfeld, CPA.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Pity poor Christina Aguilera. Britney Spears gets all the attention, even when she "snogs" with Madonna.

The problem is that she's not applying basic corporate strategy principles. Spears is the leading brand in the "pop tart" category, and any other competitors have to recognize that and carve out their own niche.

Mandy Moore, for example, dyed her hair brown, and has received good reviews for her various movie roles. "Brunette thinking-man's pop star" is significantly differentiated from "blonde jailbait slut."

Aguilera, on the other hand, seems to have settled on the strategy of out-slutting Spears. This is a difficult strategy to pull off, as anyone who has tried to compete with Wal-Mart on price can attest.

Aguilera would be better off focusing on her core competencies (greater vocal range and ability to convey emotion) rather than competing on sheer harlotry.
Why parents make good employees:

While you might think that it's better to hire single employees who can work outlandish hours, it's actually better to hire parents. Anyone who has had to learn how to juggle work, home, and taking care of a small infant has learned to function at a far higher level of efficiency.

Back when I was single, always complained about my mythical "copious free time." Now that I'm a dad, I can only conclude that I was horrendously inefficient back in those days. Being forced to take care of a baby while holding down a full time job reinforces how precious those uninterrupted hours at the office are. When I was taking care of Jason at the office, I worked like crazy whenever he fell asleep.

Now that he's in preschool, I find that I'm still 2x as efficient as I used to be, and this more than makes up for any reduction in office hours.
Here's a pet peeve that I discussed with Noah Mercer last week:

How can I find blogs that I'll want to read?

I have a number of basic interests (basketball, venture capital, entrepreneurship, and of course, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge). If I look them up in Google, I can find hundreds of Web sites that cover these topics in incredible depth. Yet if I want to find blogs on these subjects, it's like searching for a needle in a haystack. Blindfolded. While juggling chainsaws.

Can anyone explain this to me? I pray that the folks over at Google are working on this one!

Monday, September 01, 2003

The joy of IKEA.... The Swedish home furnishings giant has finally opened its East Palo Alto warehouse, which means that I now have the ability to enjoy the longest lines this side of Space Mountain and Swedish meatballs 365 days per year.

While IKEA certain has its drawbacks (carpal tunnel syndome, anyone?) it is remarkably successful as a business and as a retailing experience. Here's why:

1) It's cheap. 'Nuff said.

2) It's stylish. Despite being limited to flat components and low prices, IKEA's designers are really good at ripping off classic designs. The Palo Alto Weekly ran an article showing how IKEA carried knockoffs of designer furniture for an average of 1/10th the price. The designer store owner argued that the real designer stuff would last longer. Guess what, buddy, anyone who has kids doesn't care. Besides, for 1/10th the price, I could simply buy a new set of everything every 5 years and still come out ahead.

3) It's visual. Unlike normal furniture store, IKEA focuses on the experience, rather than the catalog. By forcing shoppers to wander through a series of demonstration rooms, the emphasis is on how the pieces actually look in the home.

4) It's frenzied. Just like eBay or Krispy Kreme, IKEA realizes the value of whipping shoppers into a collective frenzy. Once you enter the warehouse, the madness of crowds overwhelm you. I would be surprised if IKEA pumped extra oxygen in, just like the casinos. At the end of your trip, you tend to stagger out with twice as much as you planned to buy.

5) The meatballs.