Thursday, July 28, 2005

Is Zillow reading this blog?

Perhaps Rich Barton is reading this blog. Back in April, I commented on why I thought the odds were against Zillow. The lack of knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the real estate market was a key issue that I thought would impair them -- it looks like they are starting to plug that gap. Yesterday, they announced additions to their board that included familiar names -- Erik Blachford (ex-CEO of Expedia) and Greg Maffei (ex-CFO of Microsoft and current CFO/President of Oracle) and one name less familiar (Gordon Stephenson). Gordon is the co-founder of a real estate brokerage. Coincidentally, I was one of Gordon's first clients when he got into Real Estate right out of Stanford in the late 80's. We were both in our early 20's looking to build real estate empires coming at it from different angles. I later got distracted/consumed by Microsoft and scaled back my real estate investing but he's been in it ever since.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Washington 3rd in # of VC investments

A few excerpts from the article in the Seattle P-I reporting on venture activity in Washington...

Twenty-six companies in the state received financing, ranking it behind only California and Massachusetts in number of deals...

A diverse group of Seattle-area companies received financing in the second quarter -- ranging from digital content storage maker Isilon Systems to high-speed Internet service provider Ygnition Networks...

Investments also were pretty evenly split in terms of company development -- with six early-stage deals, six second-round deals and eight later-stage deals.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Ten Strategies That May Improve Your Business

VC Jason Caplain has a good list of 10 ways for companies to improve their business. Click here for the full list and commentary behind each one. Here are my favorites...
  • Service your competitor's customers when they have problems
  • Hire smart people
  • Understand who your best customers are and shower them with attention.
  • Work with partners, not service providers
  • Spend time with others in the market that have "done it before" and pick their brain

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Top media brass in my backyard

Every year, right after the 4th of July, Allen & co. has their invitation-only event in Sun Valley where they spend $20M to entertain & educate this elite audience. The media is kept out but they camp out around the edges of the conference. After Davos, I'd guess that this event is the 2nd biggest event in terms of power players in the business world getting together. It certainly tops Davos in terms of composition of billionaires (Gates, Buffett, Brin, Page, Jobs, Murdoch, Dell, Knight, etc.). The main news that came out of the event (other than who attended) was the announcement of Morgan Freeman teaming up with Intel for something they call Clickstar. Major deals such as the ABC/Capital Cities merger were consummated here and the accompanying investment banking fees is what allows Allen & co to drop $20M per year.

You've probably never seen more private jets in one place than what you see at the little Sun Valley airport during the conference. Though they keep it well hidden, there is tremendous security. Michael Stapleton Associates, an explosives-detection security company designated and certified by the Department of Homeland Security to provide anti-terrorism technologies, provides security together with local law enforcement officials and various subcontractors. Though security is tight, it's easy to walk around the Sun Valley Village and see various celebs whether it's Barry Diller rolling by on his mountain bike or Phil Knight walking by in his signature shades.

Most locals who work the conference are discreet about what they are doing but you hear some funny stories from time to time of the high maintenance people when they go on outings such as rafting trips (e.g., you better hand them a glass of wine as they step off the raft). Otherwise, the execs try to do their best to keep it low key as one of the unique aspects is the fact that they bring their families along and the spouses and kids are entertained just as much as the execs.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Open source marketing -- Sugarshots campaign

On an earlier post, I introduced my notion of an Open Source Marketing campaign. iMedia has taken that idea and run with it. The latest article in the series starts to expand what's been done thus far from a focus on media to a broader marketing focus. Since the kick-off of the first campaign with Sugarshots, momentum has picked up including feedback from two people who have talked up Open Source Marketing. Joseph Jaffe who mentions Open Source Marketing in his Life after the 30-second spot book that is climbing the charts of business book sales and James Chertoff who coined the term in his Open Source Marketing manifesto. The article ends with a shout-out to Joseph, James Chertoff and Steve Rubel (who has also spoken of Open Source Marketing and Open Source Press Releases) to weigh in with their thoughts. Hopefull Joseph, James, Steve and others do this along with many others (that includes you).

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Partner leverage and reminders

Ed Sim has some good tips and reminders in making the most of partner relationships. Some of these are super critical for startups since partnering can burn through a lot of cycles when resources are most crunched.

What's a "reverse merger" or "backdoor IPO"?

Those were questions I used to ask. Fred Wilson has a good explanation of not only what they are but the caveats associated with them.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Housevalues looking for VP of Marketing

Here's a chance to build a brand for a company yet to put significant focus in that area yet they are highly profitable and rapidly growing. The job is working for my friend Ian Morris -- a great guy to work with and for.

Here's the job summary: Reporting to the President & COO, the VP of Marketing is responsible for strategic and operational management of the comprehensive set of marketing functions including lead generation and customer acquisition campaigns, marketing communications, public relations and will lead and execute the effort to define HouseValue’s branding to our constituencies and the execution of that brand throughout the internal HouseValues organization.

If you want more details on the job, let me know. I have the full job description.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ramping up on a new technology

Tim Oren has a good post on how to efficiently ramp up in a market/technology. As a venture consultant, I have to do this all the time. Same is true for VCs, someone taking a new job, etc.