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Should a Startup Have a COO?

As a Founder, you may find hiring a COO helpful, but think twice if you seek VC funding.

Steve Shu ponders on an older article in Entrepreneur.com on the subject.

The author describes situations where the COO is taking on operational functions, ranging from HR, Finance, vendor relationships, order fulfillment, Product Management, QA ..etc, but almost never Sales, Marketing or external PR – these being CEO responsibilities.

Steve’s experience is somewhat different, having performed COO roles with a heavy Sales / Business Development, Account Management slant. I myself served as President at a startup with major focus on Sales, and as VP Sales in a smaller company where I ended up doing a lot of corporate development, which the President didn’t do.

It all boils down to what makes sense based on the individual skill-sets in any specific company… except when you need VC funding. The big difference is that while you, as Founder/CEO are trying to find the best solution for YOUR company, C’s mission is not how to help YOU, but to find the best investment opportunity. There is a process of elimination to get there, and having the right team & roles is a major criteria in that process.

Almost no early-stage startup seeking VC funding should ever have one founder as the “CEO” and another as “President” or “Chief Operating Officer”. This is almost always a sign of title inflation (usually to assuage someone’s ego). Almost guaranteed, any startup that has both a CEO and a President/COO has the wrong person in one or the other (or both) of those roles. This sort of title inflation and proliferation is almost always – like most other “contortions” of the standard org chart – a red flag to VC’s. Can easily be taken to indicate that some of the co-founders are more worried about titles (and ego’s) than success.”

The quote is from Mayfield’s Allen Morgan, whose 10 Commandments, in fact his entire blog should be on the Must-Read list of any Entrepreneur seeking venture funding. I would add to Allen’s reasoning that other than title inflation, there may be REAL business reasons for a Founder to bring in a COO, and I am by far not advocating that startup Founders should not make the right business decision to “look better” in front of VC’s. But a potential problem in the Management Team is a red flag for VC’s, and as long as their pipe is full, they have no reason to invest in less-than-ideal companies. Then again, some startups may be better off without VC funding at all.

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Browser Market Getting “Crowded” Again

Just kidding… it’s great to have 4 choices, instead of just IE & FireFox.

After their Birthday Giveaway, Opera finally went free.  (hat tip: Espen)

Flock, the social browser is still in Beta, but it’s signup list grew to 15,000 overnight (hat tip: TechCrunch)

 

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Born in the USA (?)

“A Russian woman traveling on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Los Angeles gave birth on the plane, the carrier said Thursday. Lyudmila Yalinus delivered her baby boy with the help of several flight attendants after two doctors who were on board refused to help for unspecified reasons, said Viktor Sokolov, an Aeroflot spokesman.”  (AP via YAHOO)

  • I can’t imagine the doc’s were too lazy to help  –  I bet they had a practice in the US and were worried about liability.
  • Will the baby be a US Citizen?

 

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Technorati Winning the Search Wars? Not Exactly. Just a Skewed Test.

The announcement of Google Blog Search prompted Steve Rubel to set up a test blog to compare several Blog Search tools.  But what exactly is the objective of the comparison?

Steve’s original definition: “ Let’s see how quickly/well they work “   Then, in the test blog itself he talks about testing “the different engines’ ability to spider the full-text of a blog “. 

Well, there’s not much to test there, we already know from the announcement that “Bloogle” only indexes feeds, so that’s a given.  Nevertheless, Steve picks a search term ( “ms. mxyzptlk” ) that is AFTER the extract Blogger uses for the Atom feed.  No wonder the search term produces no results – it’s not supposed to.

However, when Steve declares Technorati a winner, he clearly characterizes it as a test on timeliness: “ Only Technorati indexed my blog search post from yesterday so far, nearly 18 hours after I posted it

There is a small problem though:  Steve’s post is already  indexed on Google at the time of his second post, but of course one can  only find it by searching for a text-string BEFORE the feed cutoff (like i did in the above link).

Conclusion: this “test” is irrelevant to the speed of the search engines, all it did was confirm that Bloogle indeed performs as stated.

Of course one can debate whether searching feeds instead of the original html is a good idea or not, but that’s a completely different issue.   And, perhaps the right question to ask is just how we should manage our feeds?

I have previously argued that it’s a better practice to publish full feeds anyway.  At least for people who care more about their message getting out, than click-throughs on ads on their site.

On the other hand, indexing full content seems to be a bit shaky, at least for Technorati: they admittedly “get lost” and mix up post body, title, tags from different posts in their index. If parsing full html is so difficult (not that I agree with that), than perhaps using the feed is a safer bet (?) 

 

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Google Blog Search: When to Use Full Feed vs. Excerpts

(updated)

Is this the death knell for Technorati, et. al? “ – asks Charlene about Google’s entry to the Blog Search space.
I suspect I know the long-term answer for that, but for now let’s look at what Technorati’s own Niall Kennedy thinks:

Google is specifically restricting its search to feeds, and not using the HTML

of the blog. Why? Googlebot is designed to swallow a page whole and not

break the page up into individual entries or items. Feeds come

prepackaged as individual items or entries allowing for easy digestion

by parsers and indexers. Google would need to overhaul its indexer or

design a new and separate indexer specific to blog posts if it would

like to include more post content than it is currently pulling down

from a page’s link alternate declared feed (this is based on a

conversation I had with Google engineers in February about the indexer,

I won’t blog the details, and things may have changed). Technorati

indexes a blog’s HTML assisted by the declared RSS and Atom feed, so I am admittedly a bit biased.”

Well,

I’m not sure I’d consider Google’s using feeds a disadvantage/weakness:

the fact is, reading the entire HTML may very well be the cause of some

of Technorati’s problems,

i.e. their parser getting “lost”, not finding post boundaries,

associating posts with the titles and tags of the neighboring posts..

etc. (the previous link provides more details as well as a

collection of other blogger’s experience with Technorati). If

it’s so difficult to index the entire blog right, we might actually be

better off with a feed-based search.

Which takes us to Jeff Clavier’s conclusion: “… bloggers publishing only a partial feed will be partially indexed (Aha, would that be the reason for full feeds to become the standard ?)

I

could not agree more. Unless your blog is all about ad-revenue

generation, in which case you need to attract readers to your

site, there is no reason to not serve up the entire post

in your feed. It’s really simple: in this world of

infoglut either you make reading your blog convenient, or expect

to lose subscribers who are fed up with clicking and waiting.

Submitting a ‘bait’ in your feed defeats the purpose of RSS Readers.

That

brings me to a problem I find with my blog platform: there is not

enough control over the smart use of excerpts. My preference

would be:

  • Full post in the RSS feed
  • Auto-created excerpt (say, first 100 words) on the Blog Main Page, with manual override option
  • Hand-edited 2–3 line summary that other blogs can use in the trackback detail.

My

platform (Blogware via Blogharbor) does not support such selective use

of excerpts, and I am not aware that others do it

(?). Oh, well, there is always a next

release.

Update (9/14) Google’s new service already has a nickname: Bloogle ( credit to BL Ochman).
Its game over in the blog search space. “ declares Barry Ritholtz.

Update #2 (9/14) Steve Rubel‘s take, in his test blog: “I have a big concern. Namely, according to Search Engine Watch,

Google does not spider the full blog – only what’s in the site’s RSS

feed. This presents a problem since many bloggers only publish a

summary feed. As a result, the Google Blog Search engine may be missing

a ton of important content.” True…

but again, why look at the symptom, not the root cause: providing full

content in the feed takes care of the “problem” and keeps readers

happy.

 

Update #3 (9/15) Planet OZH shares my views: Five Reasons Why Partial Content Feeds Suck. (he’s got cute baby pics, too)

Update #4 (9/18): Business Blog Consulting agrees.

 

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Ridiculous Advertising – or the Case of the Hijacked link

I was reading yet another article about the Oracle-Siebel deal, and clicked on  the “CRM company” link in the second line:

“So here we are, in the midst of Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco, where the hosted CRM company today announced news of the release of its AppExchange sharing service…”

Considering the context, common sense would dictate the link goes either the Salesforce.com or perhaps another relevant article.   To my greatest surprise I found myself at the homepage of NetSuite a direct Salesforce.com competitor!  Now, I happen to like NetSuite, but even I don’t expect this…  so let’s investigate:

  • Hovering over the link shows the URL of the very post I am reading at the bottom, at the browser’s status line.
  • A second later a box pops up, identifying it as a sponsored link.
  • Yet another click reveals it is IntelliTXT by Vibrant Media.

John Battelle discussed IntelliTXT’s unfavorable reception when they launched last year:

 “Hypertext links that appear within the editorial content of a site, including those within graphics, should be at the discretion of the editors. If links are paid for by advertisers, that should be disclosed to users.  
All online pages should clearly distinguish between editorial and advertising or sponsored content. If any content comes from a source other than the editors, it should be clearly labeled.

Absolutely.  And NEVER, EVER hijack a URL to a direct competitor’s page.

Update (9/12) Apparently I am not the only one disliking IntelliTXT. 

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The Long Tail Stolen…

Tomorrow Marc Benioff will unveil Salesforce.com’s AppExchange, or “eBay for Enterprise Software”.  A Marketplace where customers can try and buy on-demand applications.  

“The power of that is you can reach this long tail of applications. SAP and Oracle may deliver 10% of the applications you need to run your business, but there’s this large percentage of your business that won’t be managed by Oracle or SAP. This is the long tail of applications.”  says Benioff. 

This is his way of fighting the All-In-One players, including NetSuite, which is more in his league, but also SAP, Oracle.  “It looks great on PowerPoint, but on planet Earth, it won’t fly,” predicts Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite.  Who is right remains to be seen, but clearly a key factor is the ease of integration between the additional app’s and salesforce.com, or even between the other app’s themselves.

Salesforce.com may be the first one to bring us the AppExchange, but for all I know, credit for applying the Long Tail theory to Software goes to Joe Kraus of JotSpot (and previously Excite).   And it’s clearly not just theory.  

JotSpot is clearly not just about wikis, the intent is to become a widely used platform upon which the long tail of software applications is served up easily and affordably.   So does that make JotSpot an Application developer?  I seriously doubt it, although they developed sample app’s they can’t be the jack-of-all-trades.  Although  Joe never talked about the business model associated with being “the platform”, I’ve always thought they will one day introduce a Marketplace, where third party developers and the user community find each other.   But first they need critical mass – something Salesforce already has. 

I’m eager to see JotSpot’s next move… 

 

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Outsource Homeland Security

… says The Tennessee Guerilla Women blog.

Fact: the Canadian rescue team reached New Orleans days before the US military.

————————————————

Watching TV News before going to sleep yesterday, split screen, left showing studio, right showing a Chinook helicopter lifting 3 huge sandbags.
Wait, what’s that unusual decal on the side? Zoom-in: Republic of Singapore Air Force

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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

These two making the rounds on the Net, the first one supposedly from New Orleans, the next from Sky News.

Bush1

Bush2

 

P.S.  Before I get flooded with comments, yes, I know the Fishing in New Orleans pic is a fake – but it shows what many consider is wrong with the the President’s Attitude.

 

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Shaking the Money Tree™ (PWC & SVASE)

SVASE and PWC present the SVASE Main Event for Q3, 2005:
Shaking the Money Tree™
Venture Capital Trends: The Second Definitive Mid Year Update

  • Networking, Dinner
  • MoneyTree capital investment report and a panel discussion
  • Venture Financing Outlook

Click here for details and registration.  See you there on Thursday!

 

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