‘Equity is like shit’

February 22, 2007

Although I wasn’t there to see it, I was watching this video recently. Jerry Kaplan is the speaker (he’s the CEO of Winster) and one of his pieces of advice is don’t be greedy. He uses a great analogy to justify not hoarding equity as a founder:

Equity is like shit. If you pile it up, it just smells bad, but if you spread it around, wonderful things will grow.

A lot of what the ETL speakers have to say is often very similar. Usually it follows the pattern of great people make great teams, you have to take risks to succeed, market timing is important, etc. What’s interesting is that this isn’t necesarily a bad thing–it serves to reiterate some of the most important aspects of starting a company (which a lot of people obviously still don’t understand). One of those is equity. It surprises me when some people expect to get venture funding and still own 60, even 70% of the company. What surprises me even more is when they use that as an excuse not to pursue VC funding. As my mentor Joe told me once,

I’d rather own 1% of a multi-million dollar company than 100% of a zero-revenue company.

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You Can Hardly Call It A Car

February 22, 2007

This year’s DARPA Urban Challenege (taking place in November) will showcase a handful of artificially intelligent cars that will–get this–drive themselves in a city environment. According to this article, though, we won’t be able to get our hands on one of these “future cars” until 2030.

It always astounds me that the technology developed today takes about 20 years to be adopted by mainstream consumers. In any case, this one is worth waiting for.

Just imagine a world in which you no longer drive around in a car, you are driven around in a mobile lounge, customized to your liking. You can just say “home” or enter your house’s address in the vehicle’s GPS system and off it goes in all its autonomous glory.

Stanford's Autonomous Vehicle: Junior

You don’t have to worry about anything, the thing drives itself, literally. It stays a safe distance away from the cars around you, follows the speed limit, stops at red lights and smoothly accelerates when they turn green. Stop signs? Not a problem, even when it’s a 4-way and there are cars all around you. The vehicle knows who has the right of way. It can also detect when the kid playing in his front yard loses his ball and runs out into the middle of street. It stops before it’s too late. Another life saved because of cutting-edge technology.

It’s the car of the future, but you can hardly call it a car.

According to a CNN.com article:

February has not been kind to Google (GOOG). The fragile status of its YouTube unit was on display this week, as The Browser noted yesterday, when Viacom (VIA) announced that it would zap its videos over startup rival Joost. The National Hockey League, which had once embraced YouTube, is now apparently yanking videos from the site. And while it’s a single-market hit, we noticed that Norwegian media giant Schibsted announced that it was starting a local competitor to YouTube. Now comes word in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the much vaunted deal between Google and CBS (CBS) seems to be falling apart.

I wouldn’t be surprised if CBS headed over to Joost soon as well.

If YouTube isn’t going to get distribution deals with the major studios, what will become of it? Well, basically, it’s going to be a website chock full of silly video clips. This begs the question: how long can the site stay around if it doesn’t even have quality content?

There doesn’t appear to be a viable way to reap profits from the majority of clips on the site. It goes back to basic marketing: companies want to create a certain brand image and there isn’t an easy way to do that on YouTube because of the fleeting popularity of clips and the diversity of content.

The classic example is that of a cat food company. If they advertised in all YouTube videos that included cats, then most of the views would be during videos about cats doing stupid things, cats getting hurt, or even cats dying. Do those movies help sell cat food? Probably not.

Obviously not all cases are like that and there are some instances where advertisers would be compelled to advertise on the site. However, from what YouTube has done so far, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to bring in the big bucks for Google. I have a feeling the YouTube acquisition is going to go down in history as something along the lines of BlueMountain.com. They gained massive popularity with their eCards, but could never figure out a great way to monetize them directly.

Short GOOG before it’s too late!

Hello, world!

February 21, 2007

I decided to start blogging again, this time purely for the joy of writing about the things in my life that are important to me. Simple as that. Maybe this blog will help somebody, or make them think about something differently. It probably won’t, though. Maybe it will help me someday. If worst comes to worst, in the end it will be an interesting documentation of what I am increasingly realizing are the best years of my life. With midterms coming up, I hate Stanford right now, but you’ve got to love this place.