Archives for March 2009


Pink Prince of Wales

Not HRH Prince Charles.. but a pub named after the Prince of Wales.  Vandals painted the 16th Century building pink overnight – a few days too early for April Fools Day.


Of course what’s vandalism in the good old UK would be perfectly normal in San Francisco. smile_wink


What’s This?

Guess now… or you’ll know tomorrow. smile_party


Master’s Degree in FaceBook? It’s Not April Fool’s Day Yet

Seacole Building of Birmingham City University

Image via Wikipedia

Birmingham City University in the UK will offer a one-year course in Social Media that earns you a Master’s Degree for £4,400.   Current Birmingham students think:

“Virtually all of the content of this course is so basic it can be self taught.  In fact most people know all this stuff already. I think it’s a complete waste of university resources.”

Indeed it is.  Also a waste of money, if you consider the price.  After all, you can get a Master’s Degree for $499, (nofollow) without having to fiddle around with any  courses whatsoever.  Just don’t ask me what you can do with that degree. smile_eyeroll

Update: apparently early April Fool’s jokes are not that unusual.


Creative Retailer: Price Follows DOW

This will be an unusual post in more than one way.

First, it’s about a decidedly low-tech retail business, that does not really fit this blog’s profile.

Second, it’s about a business I don’t personally care for: designer t-shirts. Tees are in the conference schwag category for me, I barely ever spend on them, and $110 (even $55 after discount) is an outrageous price, if you ask me.

Third, I really don’t like tattoo’s – and this line is all about reprinting tattoos. Yuck.  (But that’s just me.)

Fourth, I am reprinting an email sent to me in it’s entirety.  Rest assured, I’m doing it with the sender’s permission. I’m lazy, don’t wan to write a post and this makes a perfect story.  Ok, joke apart, keep on reading, there is something about creative business models here.  Here’s the letter (emphasis mine):

Hello! My name is Jeremy Parker and I am a 23 year old entrepreneur.  I am the CEO of Tees and Tats, a high-end, limited edition t-shirt line designed by world renown tattoo artist Marco Serio. We launched the line last July, with much success, selling to many high-end boutiques all over the US and Canada. 

But starting last November, are sales starting to slow dramatically as with the rest of the economy.  A large percentage of the stores we were selling to closed, and the stores that have survived are not placing re-orders. I did not want to concede to failure- because if the entrepreneurial spirit dies, America will be in a much worse place.  I knew the store issue would still be a problem, because high-end retailers are not buying goods anymore, but I came up with an idea that I thought might help our online sales.

I first lowered our prices from $110 to $55.  This helped a little bit, but people where still not buying like we saw earlier.  So I came up with a concept that at the time seemed bizarre, but now has proven to be a savior for us.

Now when a customer buys a shirt on our website (, they are told the price of the DOW.  For every 100 points that the DOW drops within two months after the time of purchase they receive $5 dollars off of their purchase.  For example if a customer buys a shirt for $55 dollars and the DOW is 8200 and two months later the DOW is 8000 – the customer gets a check in the mail for $10 dollars.  The reason why people aren’t  buying high-end fashion- is that they are nervous about affording food, rent and other necessary living expenses.  Obviously very understandable.  So by assuring them that if the economy deteriorates even more they would get some money back – it made it very enticing for many customers.  Our sales have been up significantly since we started this.

One important additional element to the Tees and Tats philosophy is our desire to give back. For every T-shirt sold in the initial collection, we are going donate a percentage of proceeds to the non-profit ArtWorks Foundation. Based in Englewood, N.J., ArtWorks provides children and young adults suffering from chronic and life-threatening illnesses, and their siblings, access to creative and performing arts programming which encourages the use of the creative process as a vehicle for healing, communication, self-expression, and personal development. (I actually chose this charity to give to because of your piece on them a few years back.)

I just want to thank you for listening to my story, and I want to say that as things are looking bad and seems to be getting even worse – It is going to be the American people who are going to fix this problem.

Best Wishes,
Jeremy Parker

Wow.  Talk about creative business models.smile_wink  The discount is quite deep, 100 points on the DOW is nothing percentage-wise, yet it earns a 10% discount on your tee-price.  The company maximized the “DOW-insurance” program at 700 points, which would equate $35.  Is this a funny way of declaring the true bottom price of $20? 

There are a lot of open questions I have not verified around whether customers actually received refund checks, how market rallies may interfere with the calculation ( is there a specific “date of record” or duration  the DOW has to stay low), etc.

Still, I wanted to share this story as an example of thinking outside the box: a virtue a lot of startups (and established businesses) need nowadays to survive in the face of recession.  I don’t know if Jeremy will be running Tees and Tats a few years for now – but I am quite sure he’ll be running something.  He’s an Entrepreneur.


Google Thinks They Invented Orion

The Germans beat them to it, 40 years ago:

If the colors are a bit funky, that’s because this is a re-colorized version of the 60’s black & white series, Raumpatrouille Orion, or Space Patrol Orion.  Here’s a b&w English language trailer of a movie based on the original TV series:

(Cross-posted from CloudAve)

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Gmail’s Undo Send Isn’t Really Undo, Just Like Multiple Inboxes Were Not Really Multiple Inboxes

First of all, I love Gmail, it’s my one-and-only email system.  And I’m certainly glad to see the ever accelerating rate of enhancements, whether “official” or just the Labs variety.  But oh, please, can we have some control here and call features what they really are?

First there was the multiple inboxes announcement.  Nice. Except that it wasn’t. Multiple inboxes, that is. Think about it: that would defy logic – unless we’re talking about handling multiple email accounts, which is clearly not the case with Gmail.  This feature is multi-pane viewing – no more, no less.

Today we’re getting another new feature: Undo Send. Except that it really isn’t. Undo Send, that is.

Undo Send is what Outlook has offered for ages: you can actually recall a message that had already been sent, provided the recipient has not opened it yet, and you’re both on Exchange.  What Gmail offers now is a momentary delay of 5 seconds, during which you may just realize you’re emailing the wrong Smith or Brown, and hit the panic Undo button. It’s not really undo, since the message was never sent in the first place – Gmail was holding it for 5 seconds, if you had enabled this option.

Of course, as just about all TechCrunch commenters note, 5 seconds is not enough, the delay might as well be configurable.  Something like this:

Oh, I forgot.  It’s from that other Web-mail system (the one that actually has multiple inboxes, too).

UpdateMG Siegler over @ VentureBeat agrees this is not real  unsend,  and he remembers AOL had a real unsend/recall feature, just like the Exchange theme I described above.

Update #2:  Oh, please… per Wired, Google already plans configurability, but all you get to pick is 5 or 10 seconds.

Related posts:


Startups: Present at Under the Radar

Under the Radar is Silicon Valley’s most established startup debut platform: a conference series organized by Dealmaker Media (for those with a longer memory, they used to be IBDNetwork) , covering business applications, social media, entertainment, mobility..etc.

The 11th Under the Radar conference in Mountain View, CA on April 24, 2009 will focus on Cloud Computing and Business Applications and as such it’s an obvious fit for CloudAve – media partners for the event.

While a conference in name, it’s actually a giant Startup Launchpad – the American Idol of startups.  Typically 32 finalists are selected, who will present in a rapid-fire format  – they are grouped in categories of 4 each, in two parallel tracks  and each presenter has about 15 minutes. They get grilled by the judges and audience, and at the end of the conference the winners of each category are announced. 

But why bother in the middle of the worst recession most of us have seen?  After all, no startups get funded now – you may think.   Well, if you think VC investment all dried up, just look at these two UtR companies picking up $27M in funding.   In fact Dealmaker Media claims that in the past 3 years alone, presenting companies have gone on to raise over $1.36 Billion. Some additional stats on Under the Radar “graduates”:

49% have gone on to raise funding or be acquired
14% have been acquired by companies such as Google, eBay, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco
$14 Million average has been raised by presenting companies

I guess the Dealmaker name is justified, after all smile_regular.  Other than the presentations, these events are also an excellent networking opportunity amongst the 400 or so attendees, so let’s look at the previous years’ attendance statistics by provided by Dealmaker Media:

It certainly looks like the right crowd to mingle with for investment-hungry startups.  Currently about half the slots are filled by these finalists:

Ctera, Eucalyptus, Heroku, New Relic, Sauce Labs, Symplified, Tap In Systems, Twillio, uTest, Virsto Software, Zephyr, Zetta, Zimory, Zuora.

Obviously that means there is still room for more.  So if your startups fits one of these categories: 

Cloud Infrastructure | Platforms | Virtualization | Saas | Mashups | Collaboration | Communication | Business Apps | Development Tools (Utilities, OS, etc…) | Mobile Office | Semantics | Commerce | Social software/ networks | Sync (online/offline)

and meets the general criteria:

  • Unique value proposition
  • Ability to monetize product/business
  • Large market opportunity
  • Must still be considered "under the radar" – launched in 2009
  • Company must be an actual startup – not a new product from a large company

then what are you waiting for?   Apply now to present at Under the Radar.  Non-presenting attendees can register here.

We will talk about UtR more over @ CloudAve – it will no doubt be an exciting competition.

(Cross-posted from CloudAve.  To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)


US Army Wikified

WetPaint is one of my early “discoveries”, three years ago I called them the “wiki-less” wiki, as it blended wiki-like, forum-like and blog-like features long before it became fashionable.   I haven’t followed them closely, but apparently they’ve been growing nicely, and today I saw this post:

The US Army on Wetpaint! – hm .. let’s see.  The PE350 Wiki is a Virtual Classroom, set up by Major Mark Rea, who put his Cadets’ physical education plan online.  This is cool on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin…

First of all, it’s a truly professionally maintained wiki, with a Wiki 101 for new users, then details of the Syllabus, Lessons and Assignements, Cadet Fitness Challenge..etc.  They use text, photos, videos, podcasts – you name it, this is a fully featured interactive social site.

Second, I grew up in a country where anything even remotely related to the Army was surrounded with utmost secrecy, and I am still somewhat amazed at the level on information publicly available about the US military.  Granted, there are no strategic plans or weapons specs in this wiki, but still … smile_wink

Third… quick IM reaction from the first person I shared this news with:

Cool. Why is US Army resorting to free sites? Credit crunch

What a perfect fit for the Power of Less theme I just wrote about earlier today, in my Web 2.0 Expo post.  Major Rea and his cadets are using Wetpaint instead of Blackboard, the market leader commercial software for Education.   No, the US Army as a whole did not replace Blackboard with Wetpaint – but this particular unit did.  It’s a good start – just like corporations using Google Apps or Zoho Business services here and there … usage grows, initially it may just be leverage in licence negotiations with Blackboard, Microsoft and the like… but one day, who knows…smile_tongue.  It’s nice to see the US Army SaaS-ified. 

Oh, and for that Power of Less: it’s certainly less when it comes to what hey have to spend on software – but I’m not even sure it’s less when it comes to usability, participation.  Could this also become the case of Less is More?

(from the PE350 video page)


(Cross-posted from CloudAve.  To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)


Are You Left-Brained or Right? She Can Tell… Or Not?

Do you see the  girl spinning clockwise?  Then you’re using your right brain.

Do you see her spin counter- clockwise?  You’re likely using your left brain.

Some people have the ability to see both.  (If you read this post in a feed reader, it probably won’t work, please click through for the test.)

.Spinning girl

Today I can only see her turn clockwise … but they way I recall, when I first saw this a few years ago, I ssaw her turn left.  Hm…changes in my brain function?

Of course it’s an optical illusion.

The image is not objectively “spinning” in one direction or the other. It is a two-dimensional image that is simply shifting back and forth. But our brains did not evolve to interpret two-dimensional representations of the world but the actual three-dimensional world. So our visual processing assumes we are looking at a 3-D image and is uses clues to interpret it as such. Or, without adequate clues it may just arbitrarily decide a best fit – spinning clockwise or counterclockwise. And once this fit is chosen, the illusion is complete – we see a 3-D spinning image.

By looking around the image, focusing on the shadow or some other part, you may force your visual system to reconstruct the image and it may choose the opposite direction, and suddenly the image will spin in the opposite direction.

The above explanation comes from Dr. Steven Novella,  academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine.

So now we know.  But I still can’t make her turn left…


Who Says the iPHone is Not for Business When SAP Runs on It?

Well, SAP Executives, for starters .. just ask Vinnie Mirchandani or Larry Dignan. SAP Execs and key customers were quite dismissive of the iPhone as a business communication platform.  But like I’ve said before discussing Oracle’s SaaS offering, it’s not what they say … it’s where they put their money. smile_wink

Granted, the SAP – Sybase partnership just being announced at these very moments (webcast) isn’t all about the iPhone: it’s about making the SAP Business Suite 7 available on iPhone, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry.  Still, it’s nice to see they chose the “right phone” for the video. smile_wink (hat tip: Jeff Nolan)

(Cross-posted from CloudAve. To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)