Nov 7, 2008

Shai Agassi Speaks at Web 2.0 Summit

Shai Agassi left SAP earlier this year to start Better Place.

"How do you take a country off oil?" is the business problem he's trying to solve. In his model, you are charged for the miles driven and not the battery. The price of a battery and electricity is $0.06/mile for an automobile. In his startup's model, the battery is not part of the purchase price of the car. He will build the network and will purchase electricity to charge batteries. Israel and Denmark are introducing significant taxes (60% - 180%) of the purchase price of gasoline-powered cars as an incentive to drive the adoption of electric cars.

Renault-Nissan will manufacture the initial eletric cars that will be used on Shai's electric network. The cars will arrive between 2010 and 2014.

Digg's Kevin Rose - "How to Be Scrappy"

Digg's founder Kevin Rose talks about "how to be scrappy" based on his experiences at Digg:
  • When Digg launched, Kevin kept his day job and worked on Digg in the nights and weekends.
  • He hired his initial developers on elance-- one in India and one in Nova Scotia. This worked initially, but he hired local developers as the site grew to deal with scalability issues.
  • As the founder and CEO, he was the face of the company. He recommended Gary van der Chuck - "Personal Brand."
  • Start a podcast. It's a very cheap way to get publicity.
  • Use the blog to get PR.
  • Even now, Digg is launching new products with rented servers and Amazon S3 for storage.
He sees funding going away for consumer internet companies in the short term, but thinks this is a still a good time to start new companies.

Thoughts on Platform Strategy from Google, MySpace, Facebook, and Microsoft

Max Levchin (Slide) hosted a panel on the platform with Vic Gundotra (Google), Amit Kapur (COO MySpace), David Treadwell (Microsoft), and Elliot Schrage (Facebook).

It's funny seeing these guys on stage. On Wednesday, I asked the Microsoft guy to "keep it down" during one of the sessions.

  • They developed their platform on open web technologies.
  • There are different levels of platform, some that are application-specific and others that are more general.
  • They are interested in advancing the capabilities in the underlying platform, such as the web browser.
  • In the battle of Windows vs the Web, the Web has won.
  • The platform: (1) drives activity in the ecosystem by enabling users to contribute, drives the creation of new ecosystems, such as virtual goods, and (3) is a great marketing vehicle.
  • The platform allows developers to create new engaging experiences and monetize those experiences.
  • The Travel Channel developed a Facebook application that generates more traffic than their dedicated web property.
  • Feedback from developers is critical.
  • 400,000 developers signed up for the Facebook platform, which far exceeded the goals from the original business plan.
  • Facebook announced a collaboration with Salesforce at the Dreamforce conference.
  • Building a platform with 3 goals: (1) comprehensive platform, (2) choice, so you can take what you like, and (3) take advantage of computing power available on the client.
  • As you introduce new versions of the platform, compatibility with previous versions is important.

A Chat with Elon Musk from Tesla Motors

Elon Musk from Tesla Motors spoke on stage with John Battelle. The $109k Tesla roaster is faster than all Ferrari's except the Enzo, and Tesla is currently manufacturing 800-1500 / year. The current waiting list is 1200 people.

Elon is also starting two other start-ups:
  • Solar City: solar systems available on a lease basis for residential and small business. Recently completed a large financing round, 3x the previous round.
  • SpaceX: a 6-year-old start-up dedicated to space exploration technologies. His fourth launch successfully entered orbit.
When Elon went to college, he set three goals for himself:
  1. The Internet
  2. Renewable energy
  3. Space exploration and taking life to other planets
His three start-ups are the fulfillment of his second and third goals. As the co-founder of PayPal, he did okay with checking off the first goal. Check out his bio on Wikipedia.

The Web and Politics

John Heilemann hosted a panel on politics and the web with Arianna Huffington, Gavin Newsome, and Joe Trippi.

Highlights and take-aways:
  • "The Internet has killed Karl Rove politics." - Ariana
  • "The truth keeps intruding into people's rooms." - Ariana (in reference to the power of the Internet in politics)
  • The Internet medium demands authenticity from politicians.
  • Joe talked about a "" as a portal used by the President to reach out to citizens to develop policy and legislation.
  • There is no such thing as "off the record" anymore.

Demand Media

Richard Rosenblatt of Demand Media. They generate content for the web. They are the largest producer of video for YouTube.

They've raised $355M

Demand Studios
  • Has a catalog of content that must be generated, along with the price (e.g. $15).
  • Writers who are part of their network can checkout a title, write the content, and are paid for that piece.
  • They have a similar model for generating video content for online advertisers.
Pluck on Demand: is a tool that allows website owners to have content generated for their website. They have a series of widgets (e.g., Related Content) that can be embedded in your website. The content for these is generated by Demand Media, and the widgets contain advertising.

The Twitter of India?

An entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, Beerud Sheth is the founder of Webaroo. Their core offering is SMS GupShup (chitchat in Hindi). Using SMS GupShup, you can set up groups of mobile users and broadcast messages to your group. Groups can be created and managed entirely from the mobile handset without requiring any web access.

Webaroo currently has 12M users of SMS GupShup. These users send 500M messages/month, which represents 7% of all SMS messaging in India. Use cases for this product: micro-blogging, news, social networking.

Some interesting data from his presentation.
  • Globally, there are 1.4B users of http, and there are 3.5B mobile subscribers
  • The majority of growth in mobile subscribers is in rural areas, with most handsets costing less than $50 (unsubsidized).

Nov 6, 2008

Launch Pad at the Web 2.0 Summit

During the afternoon keynote, several start-ups were given 5 minutes each to pitch to a panel of VC's from NEA, Sequoia, Omidyar Network, Mohr Davidov Ventures, and Panorama.

Carbonetworks - Michael Meehan
  • Provides companies a platform for managing their carbon footprint and strategy.
  • Incorporated in 2005. 300 corporate subscribers to date, growing at 2-3 per day.
EveryScape - Mok Oh
  • 3D views of real places online. You can walk around outside, walk in to shops, zoom around.
  • Source of product information to find healthy, safe products.
  • Are there carcinogens in products?
  • Web-based and also launched an iPhone client. Also available by SMS message.
  • VC concerns: start-up or public service? content-generation cost? velocity of new products developed is quite high.
  • Platform for online predictions by users.
  • Revenue model: sponsored questions by marketers. $1/question.
  • 1M predictions with 200K questions since its launch one year ago.
Qik - Bhaskar Roy
  • Streaming live video from cell phone to the web.
  • Use cases: sharing video with friends, bloggers, Ashton Kutcher, travel diaries, media companies for live news.
  • Works with any J2ME phone.
  • Platform that supports multiple back-ends: facebook, twitter, itunes, blogger, tumblr, youtube.
  • Will be embedded in Nokia 5800.
  • VC concerns: monetizing video,
  • VC's liked: IP, differentiation,
Sungevity - Danny Kennedy
  • Sells solar panels on-line.
  • Online quote for solar panel installation.
  • Web site has a video-based
  • On target to meet $2.5M first-year revenue goal.
My take-aways
  • For each presentations, there were very widely varied reactions/feedback by the different VC's.
  • The passion of the entrepreneur during the presentation does have an impact.

Mark Zuckerberg's Keynote at the Web 2.0 Summit

After a scrumptuous lunch of cheese-filled tortellini, cesar salad, and dessert pastries, Martin and I are back in the grand ballroom for the afternoon keynotes. (Martin had the chicken, I believe, and I know he enjoyed the dessert.) Surprisingly, most of the panel's sessions, panels, and "conversations" are held in the grand ballroom. There were a few sessions in smaller conference rooms, but most of the sessions are in the grand ballroom.

Growth is their primary driver, and they're busy opening offices around the world: Dublin, France, London. Facebook revenue is in the 100's of millions, but Mark wasn't specific about the revenue generated by the brand vs the channel.

Facebook currently employees more than 700 employees, and they are still hiring. They are aggressively expanding their Sales effort, especially internationally. In France, 7% of the population uses Facebook. Facebook Connect: a new platform for developers that is currently in beta.

An Interesting Way to Look at Your Energy Consumption

Dr. Saul Griffith showed a beta version of, an energy start-up that lets you calculate your energy consumption. Instead of focusing on carbon footprint, Saul advocates computing your energy consumption.

Some highlights
  • His 2007 energy consumption was 17000W, but the global average is only 2200 W.
  • The US government uses a significant amount of energy on our behalf.
  • Current worldwide energy demand: 16 terraWatts (TW)
  • These figures can be used to determine how much alternative energy must be generated to reduce dependence on energy generation from fossil fuels.

The Future of Media , According to Twitter and Current TV

At the Web 2.0 Summit, Ken Auletta (the New Yorker) led a discussion with Joel Hyatt (CEO of Current TV) and Evan Williams (CEO of Twitter).

When asked "How will Twitter make money?" Evan first drew a blank and then steered the conversation to how people are using Twitter in new and cool ways. I guess Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook) set the precedent for this question. Where did all the capitalists go?

Joel has an old-fashioned revenue model (his words, not mine) where Current TV licenses content to cable companies, for distribution to households. Joel also appears to have 20 years on Evan, so I guess things like money and revenue are more top of mind for him. :-)

Current TV has user-generated content as well as user-generated ads. Viewers in fact prefer viewer-generated ads. Despite this being a panel session about media, there were several technical glitches in pulling up the video segments during the panel. (Kinda ironic) Toyota sponsors Viewer Created Ad Messages (VCAM's). The one that was shown for the Prius was quite good and better than most of the Prius commercials I've seen. Several other large companies, including Loreal, have sponsored VCAM's.

Attenhut! The Army is Now Web 2.0 Ready!

General Jeffrey Sorenson, the CIO of the US Army, dressed in battle fatigues, addressed the audience. The "Army of the Future" is preparing for an era of persistent conflict. Geez.

General Sorenson showed an interesting chart that shows commercial technology and army usage of that technology on the same graph. There's basically an 8-10 year lag between the development of a technology, such as the Internet, and the deployment of that technology in the Army.

Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS). The Army is using software similar to WebEx or Go-To-Meeting for their training and battle planning.

Command Post of the Future: a Web 2.0 app that integrates satellite, video, VOIP, 3D topography, DB access, and collaboration tools for real-time battle management. This tool was developed by DARPA.

In their overall architecture, the Army is using Keyhole Markup Language (KML) to access data from Google Earth and other mapping databases. Field units are using RSS to stay informed with battle commands and information.


Health 2.0 at the Web 2.0 Summit

Here I am at Day 2 of the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Summit. I arrived at the tail end of a conversation with Ralph de la Vega from AT&T, and now I'm listening to a panel of geneticists and physicians talk about "Health 2.0."

For $400, 23andme will map out your genome and provides a report that provides insight into your traits and diseases. Pretty scary stuff! Reminds me of the movie, Gattaca. But, intriguing as well. I lost a lot of money in biotech stocks in the late 90's when the results of the human genome project were given out to the public domain. Maybe I should try the kit and reap some rewards from my early losses, I mean investments. ;-)

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer in the USA. There are new start-ups that are working on developing blood tests that will indicate a disposition to heart disease.

Nov 5, 2008

Day 1 of the Web 2.0 Summit

After a long day of sessions and chatting with attendees, day 1 of the Web 2.0 Summit has drawn to a close. I did run out of battery after 6 hours, but here are my highlights from today's sessions:

Now, I'm going to call it a night and get caught up on my day job. ;-)

Keynotes from the Web 2.0 Summit

Well, I've read my fair share of O'Reilly books (mostly about the LAMP stack), but this is the first Tim O'Reilly keynote that I've attended. Mercifully, the keynotes for this conference are after lunch and not the usual breakfast keynote. (I guess these guys like to sleep in as well.) So here I am sitting next to Martin in the Palace Hotel's grand ballroom, listening to the keynotes. During this afternoon's keynotes, Tim and John Battelle are interviewing several guests in a format similar to a late-night talkshow. Here are some highlights from the keynotes:

Larry Brilliant - 1% of the equity of google, 1% of the profits, and 1% of employee time will be used for non-profit purposes. The 1% model was "borrowed" from Marc Benioff at Salesforce. They use a VC-like model to decide which causes to fund. They go after "big problems" that need solving where Google can make a unique difference.

Mary Meeker - Morgan Stanley
  • Lots of financial data on the economy. (slides)
  • Facebook: 161M visitors
  • Youtube: 329M visitors
  • Skype: 370M visitors
  • Paypal: 65M visitors - $15B total payment volume (TPV). Non-eBay payment volume up +49% Y/Y.
  • Ad supply > demand, so CPM's are dropping.
  • China added 73M Internet users in 2007. USA added 9.8M.
  • China added 86M mobine subscribers in 2007, India added 68M.
Rajesh Jain - MD Netcore Solutions
  • Novatium: $100 network computer for Indian market. 50M middle-class households in India, but only 8M have computers. Their market: the 30M households who visit cybercafes.
  • NetCore: using SMS for news channels & search on cell phones. SMS is also being used for advertising on phones in India. 4x the traffic of twitter.
John Doerr - Kleiner Perkins
His priorities
  • Increase US government spend in green energy to $1B/yr. (E.g., healthcare: $32B/yr)
  • Double the number of engineering and science graduates in the USA (from 30K/yr to 60K/yr)
  • Restore DARPA to its former self as a research driver, but focused on energy.
  • 2000: $100B VC money invested (50% in Internet ventures)
  • 2007: $37B VC money
  • 2008: $15B VC money
  • 2009: $8B VC money
  • Doesn't think there will be a market for exits for a couple of years. Prepare and "hunker down"
  • Kleiner: spending 30% in digital, 30% in green, life sciences a little smaller.
  1. Act now. Get a loan or secure more financing.
  2. Protect the vital core of the business. Cut once, cut deep enough.
  3. Make sure you have 18 months of cash on conservative revenue forecast. Talk to current investors and ask for additional funding now.
  4. Defer facilities expansion, capital, and software.
  5. Re-evaluate R&D priorities.
  6. Renegotiate any and all current contracts & leases.
  7. Everyone in the company should be selling the company's value prop.
  8. Offer equity instead of cash.
  9. Secure cash in government-backed securities instead of money-market funds. Still thinks a major bank will fail.
  10. Know your revenue plan. Understand the leading indicators. React quickly.
  11. Over-communicate. Do not sugarcoat.

The iPhone Market Opportunity

It's standing room only in this session. I guess there are a lot of iPhone afficianados out there. The panel includes: Raven Zachary (, Bill Dudney (Gala Factory Software LLC), Matt Murphy (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), Tom Conrad (Pandora Media).

Raven Zachary - ( product management consultant for iPhone. Helped with the Obama iPhone app.The iPhone is unique for three reasons
  1. It's persistent: mobile broadband, always-on, in your pocket.
  2. Mobile web: 13M iPhone units (source: Apple), 3-6M iPod touch (estimated by Zachary)iPhone OS generates 74% of all mobile web traffic. Beats Windows mobile, Symbian, sidekick. Blackberry is great at e-mail but generates the least mobile web traffic. The Sony PSP generates twice as much web traffic.
  3. Application distribution. Over 6,000 apps in US. 1/3 are games and entertainment. Revenue share: Apple keeps 30% of revenue.
Matt Murphy (Kleiner Perkins)
  • June 2008 - 6M iPhones (sold 1M 3G iPhones in 3 days, 7M 3g iPhones in 90 days)
  • Sept 2008 - 13M iPhones
  • Dec 2009 - expecting 50M iPhones
  • 500 apps at launch, 7200 apps now.
  • 90% of people download apps. Other phones: 20%
  • 5 iFunded companies: whrrl, pelago, iControl (control appliances in home), BooYah! (from world of warcraft guys), ngmoco
  • >3000 proposals received so far, met with >200 companies, >5 actively engaged, 5 funded. This is 20x other platforms/spaces. Looking for companies that can scale, rather than lifesytle apps.
  • Plans: business vertical, consumer vertical are the largest, healthcare (12%),
  • Would like to see more enterprise apps for the iPhone. 40% of all Fortune 500 have iPhone app in trial.
  • 12M iPhones (250M phones total in US). iPhone app downloads: 14M/week, rest of US: 3M/week
  • iPhone is changing behavior: browsing news, playing games.
  • iPhone developers in short supply.
Kleiner Perkins iFund success criteria:
  1. Inherently mobile use cases
  2. Context over content
  3. Real-time, immediate utility (apps that need 3-5 mins of training, the usage drops off)
  4. Simplicity
  5. Frequent usage
  6. Inherently viral
  7. Massive scale possible (address a large audience)
  8. Natural business model
  9. Cross platform with mobile integral (attract web users and mobile users)
  10. Take advantage of iPhone platform.

Tom Conrad (CTO, Pandora Media)
  • Largest Internet radio broadcaster. ClearChannel has 20% of all radio.
  • Apple reviews all app-store apps. Takes 24 hours to 7 days. Brew takes 1-6 months to review, at a cost of $2500, and uses NTSL for testing.

Tech Hunch Thrifty: Web 2.0 Companies Started on a Hunch and a Prayer

Just finished my first session at the Web 2.0 Summit-- a panel session hosted by Guy Kawasaki. Nine different start-ups, each given 6 minutes to demo their product. Most of the panel members appeared to be twenty-somethings. Eight of the 9 presenters were using Macs. The central theme: the days of $2M in funding with only a business plan and no product to demo are over.

WuFoo – Kevin Hale

  • Online HTML forms builder
  • Can embed form directly into website, including CSS.
  • Can process online payments: through PayPal, Google Checkout,
  • Business model: hosted, monthly subscription fee: free - $199/month.
  • Y-Combinator seed funded: $18k + angel money $100k. Profitable. Based in Tampa, FL

Yoics - Instant networking

  • Built into various devices to network-enable them. For example, surveillance cameras.
  • Can load the yoics client onto other PC’s
  • Business model: license the technology to manufacturers.
  • Bootstrapped by 2 founders. Raise money from there.

DropBox – founder Drew

  • Share files across computers. Synchs files across computers. Files show up in a folder, using standard file management. Files are synched across network.
  • Can easily “export” files by dropping them into the dropbox folder.
  • Files also available over web. Files are automatically versioned. Can restore to previous versions of files or undeleting.
  • 9 person start-up: Windows, Linux, Mac.
  • 2 gigabytes free. 50 gig: $20/month or $100/year.
  • Developed prototype in 4 months (while working at another start-up). $15k in Y Combinator + $5k loan for 9 months total.

Disqus – Jason

  • Management system for blog comments.
  • Central place to track all my comments on web sites. Can also follow comments from other disqus users.
  • As a publisher, can manage/moderate/view comments from all websites.
  • Supports blog platforms, but needs a plug-in that you drop into
  • Biz model: subscription model. Also looking at going to bigger publishers.
  • Financing: Y Combinator funded 1 year ago: $15k in summer 2007.

Mighty Quiz - Kelly Bennet

  • Trivia site – you can make your own quizzes.
  • Can plug into blogs or social networks.
  • People can create questions. Other people can rate questions (thumbs up/down)
  • Authors can write questions. Can add questions to categories. Automatically pulls in images from Yahoo images.
  • Portable, available as a widget.
  • Cyworld (social network) imports Mighty Quiz widget.
  • Y-Combinator funded: $10k. Raised few hundred $100’s K. Based in San Francisco.

SlideShare – Rashmi Sinha (CEO)

  • Share power point presentations online.
  • Space on the web to upload and share presentations.
  • Presentations converted to YouTube-like video format. Users can comment on presentations.
  • Typical use case: people upload a presentation, then link to their website/blog.
  • “Meet Henry” presentation: a preso format for advertisements. Has created a category
  • Can also synch presos with audio. (mp3 file or podcast) to create a slidecast.
  • Traffic: 9M unique visitors last month. SlideShare avail on LinkedIn. Some traffic from organic search.
  • 2000 presos uploaded / day (not counting LinkedIn)
  • Funding: $0 funding. Built prototype while working at other companies. Launched, written by TechCrunch. Revenue from other funding. 2 years into company, secured angel funding then Series A.

Posterous – Garry Tan (co-founder)

  • Blogging by e-mail. No sign-up required.
  • Blog directly from e-mail account.
  • Automatically expands links into pictures/video widget.
  • Zip files automatically expanded into a JavaScript picture viewer.
  • Use it as a way to share pictures and videos with family.
  • Raised $50k from Y-Combinator from Boston session. Launched in the summer.
  • Biz model: premium services.

Rescue Time – Tony

  • Time management software
  • Measures which software and websites you’re using. Provides aggregated stats to manager. Lets people know how they compare to their average team member.
  • Tracks apps (Word, Excel) and individual web sites (active use).
  • Can also block different websites
  • Lets managers get data by dept, group, etc.

Poll Everywhere - Jeff Dunap

  • Text participation during presentations.
  • Realtime participation by people sending SMS messages.
  • $0.30/participant/month for size of 100’s of people
  • For 250 person audience, costs $65/month. Monthly charge =
  • Financing: $9k (self-funded), $20k (Y-Comb), cash flow positive, based in Chicago & Boston.

Live from San Francisco... It's the Web 2.0 Summit

Now that the election's over, it's time to return to real life. Okay, sort-of. I'm at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Over the next few days, I'll be blogging live from the conference. So watch this space!