No Broadband on Internet Street

You can’t make this up … there really is no Internet on Internet Street.

Andrzej Gromek bought a house in Warsaw, Poland on a street named … Internet.  Wow!  How nice of the City of Warsaw to recognize the Internet by naming a street after it!  

Mr. Gromek soon discovered he could not get a broadband connection in his house.  Turned down by all providers he launched a campaign to the National Telecom Authority in Poland. They first took his letters for a prank, but after a dozen or so decided to look at the matter.  It turns out that Mr Gromek is the only resident on Internet Street actually wanting to use the Internet, and it would not be economically feasible to pull it to one customer only.

Solution: Mr Gromek is now selling his house.   I hope he does not move to a street named after water, electricity or gas… smile_wink

(Cross-posted from CloudAve)


Amazon vs. Google?

A few years ago this would have been a crazy question. A bookstore against a search engine? Apples and oranges… not anymore. Still, we’re more used to pitting Google against Yahoo, Amazon against eBay. But think about it:

Adoption of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) continues to grow. As an indicator of adoption, bandwidth utilized by these services in fourth quarter 2007 was even greater than bandwidth utilized in the same period by all of’s global websites combined.

The above quote is from Amazon’s earnings release. There are more then 330,000 developers registered to use Amazon Web Services. Some of these new Web 2.0 offerings will actually take off, in fact some will get mass adoption. That translates to tens of millions of users whose online activity flows through Amazon, and this is where Google comes in the picture.

Forget Search, Google is the world’s primary Advertising engine. They need to have (I did not say own!) all our data. Nick Carr is right:

For Google, literally everything that happens on the Internet is a complement to its main business. The more things that people and companies do online, the more ads they see and the more money Google makes. In addition, as Internet activity increases, Google collects more data on consumers’ needs and behavior and can tailor its ads more precisely, strengthening its competitive advantage and further increasing its income.

The business models are different: for Google everything you do is secondary (and largely free to you), since they make their money on the ads, while Amazon directly charges for their individual services (albeit not much). Amazon will have tens of millions of users, and Google wants them, too.

If we buy into Nick Carr’s “Big Switch” vision of utility computing (and I do), are these two giants competing to become “The Cloud computer”? Or perhaps one of the 5?smile_wink

Related posts: ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch, Between the Lines, Data Center Knowledge, ProgrammableWeb.


Morsels from the Crunchies, or Whatever Happened to Business Software?

Now that The Crunchies, the Internet Startup world’s equivalent of the Oscars are over, the winners announced, a lot of champagne consumed, let me go back to a few thoughts that have been on my mind throughout the whole show.

First of all, it was nice to see so many startups recognized, meet familiar faces again, and I join the chorus in thanking TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat and GigaOm for putting the show together. Special kudos to Om Malik for coming only three weeks after his heart attack.

Second, I can’t help but think that some of the categories were .. well, almost deterministic, leaving zero chance of winning for the “little guys” lumped together with a giant. Right out of the gate, the first category, Best gadget/device: iPhone, Kindle, Ooma, Pleo, Wii. C’mon, did anyone doubt for a minute the iPhone would win? Or look at the Best mobile startup, where the finalist were AdMob, Fring, Loopt, Shozu, Twitter. Oh, please, 3 relatively unknown names against Twitter, a mega-phenomenon… smile_sarcastic

The other thought I’ve been pondering ever since the show is whatever happened to business software? The Crunchies were yet another proof that “enterprise isn’t sexy“: this was all about consumer-glitz, with a few startups who cater to businesses. That said, at least there was an Enterprise startup category, and I was really glad to see my friends at Zoho win it. Although I wholeheartedly believe they deserve it, this was by far not a slam-dunk category, with Zoho and 37signals, which has a religious cult-like fan-base being the two chief contestants.

Perhaps the Zoho team felt a bit of extra satisfaction, given that 37signals originally questioned their viability, and called them copycats rather than innovators. Well, the innovation debate definitely ended a few weeks ago, when PC World picked Zoho’s Notebook as one of the 25 Most Innovative Products of the Year. While the Crunchies were clearly a popularity contest (with over 100,000 votes) PC World’s list was compiled by professionals. This list was notably full of gadgets, and the only other software products preceding Zoho were Google Gears and the Facebook API.

Back to the Crunchies, Enterprise category, 37signals and Zoho are diametric opposites in many ways: 37signals product philosophy is all about simplicity, “products that do just what you need and nothing you don’t” while Zoho believes in functional richness, and their customer service attitude is quite different, too. Yet I believe they are both good companies, and there’s a clear demand for their products, which is well proven by the hundreds of thousands of loyal customers. Neither of them are really Enterprise software companies though. 37signals caters for what they call the “Fortune 5,000,000” and Zoho clearly stated their mission to be the “IT for Small Business” – not that a subset of their portfolio, the Office Suite could not become Enterprise-ready, but for now it’s not their primary focus. And focused they are …

I think the Crunchies used the term Enterprise quite liberally – I would have called this category Business Software. Now, if the names IBM, HP, SAP, Citigroup, Boeing, BMW, Shell, McDonalds, Pfizer sound familiarsmile_wink, I’m sure you agree that the company who claims these and others customers is truly an Enterprise Software company. Yet Atlassian ended up in the International category, to their bad luck, as they got paired up with Netvibes. The two are apples and oranges. Atlassian is a very successful company, but the people who buy enterprise software are not the types who hang out at the Web 2.0 tech blogs or vote for the Crunchies; Atlassian stood no chance against Netvibes, with their tens of millions of individual users, all potential voters in this popularity contest.

What do three so different companies, Atlassian, 37signals and Zoho have in common? All three are bootstrapped, fast growing, financially successful and follow the “old-fashioned” business model of making good products and charging for it. I could not help but think of these guys while listen to the announcement of the Best Bootstrapped startup category, decided between FriendFeed, PoliticalBase, ProductWiki, Techmeme, UpNext. Or while listening to the panel discussion moderated by Dan Farber, where Matt Marshall expressed his astonishment how far the ad-based business model propelled us, and was wondering if advertising as the only business model would work in the downturn (no R-word!). If we had to pick the survivors of a potential downturn, these three companies are certainly safe candidates. The good old business model of charging for your product, which, incidentally, your customers love works wonders. smile_regular

Of course there was a lot more to the Crunchies, but it’s been all more then adequately covered, and I wanted to focus on business software now. But…well, I am a guy and guys love cars… so I have to mention the Cleantech category, won by Tesla, makers of this beautiful electric sports car. The only problem is, the car does not exist yet, release date has been pushed out repeatedly, the company had to go back for repeat funding, just fired a bunch of people, including the VP Manufacturing, Lead Engineer if the motor team… but hey, why not give them the Award and keep on dreaming (about the car). smile_embaressed

Update:  Apparently I am not the only one questioning the rationale of some category assignments at the Crunchies; read CenterNetworks on user-generated content.


SVASE VC Breakfast with Gus Tai, General Partner @ Trinity Ventures

After a long break (for me) I’ll be moderating another SVASE VC Breakfast Club meeting Thursday, October 18th in Palo Alto.

As usual, it’s an informal round-table where up to 10 entrepreneurs get to deliver a pitch, then answer questions and get critiqued by a VC Partner. We’ve had VC’s from Draper Fisher, Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Mohr Davidow, Emergence Capital …etc. This Thursday I”ll have the honor of welcoming a repeat guest, Gus Tai, General Partner at Trinity Ventures. Instead of introducing him, I suggest you take a look at his impressive portfolio.

These breakfast meetings are a valuable opportunity for early-stage Entrepreneurs, most of whom would probably have a hard time getting through the door to VC Partners. Since I’ve been through quite a few of these sessions, both as Entrepreneur and Moderator, let me share a few thoughts:

  • It’s a pressure-free environment, with no Powerpoint presentations, Business Plans…etc, just casual conversation; but it does not mean you should come unprepared!
  • Follow a structure, don’t just roam about what you would like to do, or even worse, spend all your time describing the problem, without addressing what your solution is.
  • Don’t forget “small things” like the Team, Product, Market..etc.
  • It would not hurt to mention how much you are looking for, and how you would use the funds…
  • Write down and practice your pitch, and prepare to deliver a compelling story in 3 minutes. You will have about 8-10 minutes, half of which is your pitch, but believe me, whatever your practice time was, when you are on the spot, you will likely take twice as long to deliver your story.smile_wink The second half of your time-slot is for Q&A.
  • Bring an Executive Summary; some VC’s like it, others don’t.
  • Last, but not least, please be on time! I am not kidding… some of you know why I even have to bring this up.clock

For more information check out the SVASE event page, and don’t forget to register . See you in Palo Alto.

Update: I will also have a special guest: former entrepreneur-turned-into-VC, who got his fame as “the entrepreneur who won’t just take VC abuse.” That is of course before successfully selling his startup and becoming a VC Partner himself. smile_shades

Update: This event is now SOLD OUT. Next Thursday I will moderate a VC Breakfast in San Francisco with Robert Troy, Managing Director of Geneva Venture Partners.


Did YOU Invent Facebook? Take a Number.

The ConnectU vs. Zuckerberg case is still open, but The New York Times reports Facebook’s real inventor, at least on a conceptual level might very well be another Harvard graduate, Aaron J. Greenspan, who established a Web service at Harvard, which he called houseSYSTEM:

An e-mail message, circulated widely by Mr. Greenspan to Harvard students on Sept. 19, 2003, describes the newest feature of houseSYSTEM, as “the Face Book,” an online system for quickly locating other students. The date was four months before Mr. Zuckerberg started his own site, originally “” (Mr. Greenspan retained his college e-mail messages and provided The New York Times with copies of his communications with Mr. Zuckerberg.)

So Greenspan (Aaron, not Alan) is claimant #3… but wait, perhaps it was Your Momma Nick O’Neill:

For all those that think they came up with an idea similar to Facebook before it was launched: congratulations! Unfortunately you didn’t have the same luck or resources that Mark Zuckerberg had at the time. Oh and by the way: I was one of the founders of Google. Just thought you should know.

They will all have to fight it out with Pete Cashmore, though, whose claim dates back to 1997:

I can only conclude that Zuckerberg used a mind-reading contraption to literally steal the idea from my brain. This will be the basis of my $1 billion lawsuit to be filed later this month.

But thoughts are not enough.. so Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu’s claim may be stronger, since he has a Thought-ent (thought-patent) on it:

That very moment, his eyes lit up, and he screamed “Yes, YES, OMIGOD, Face on the book, FACE BOOK, I Got It, Now I Really Got It, That’s what I am going to do, Facebook. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, I LOVE YOU!”

…So naturally I went to my lawyer, because I remember being told that is the first thing you are supposed to do in these situations. You know, like, billions could be at stake here.
He listened to my story intently, and started explaining the legal situation, in that measured, precisely crafted manner that I had come to associate with him: “Clearly you brought the two distinct ideas “FACE” and “BOOK” together in one sentence, on which the whole Facebook foundation rests, and which Mark Zuckerberg took from you, as proved by the reaction he had when the idea was transmitted to him. In legal terms, what you had was a THOUGHT-ent, also known as a thought-patent, which are considered legally equivalent to patents.”

(It’s a long but humorous post, I don’t even know which part to quote, you might as well read the whole story)

Last, but not least, my own claim:

I graduated in CENSORED when Mark Zuckerberg was likely in diapers. I really did not like our facebook on paper – I was seriously considering moving it on the Net. There was only one problem: the Internet did not exist. So first I had to invent it. Now you know: Al Gore did not invent the Web. I did.

Additional reading (claimants?): Insider Chatter, Mark Evans, muhammad.saleem, TechCrunch, Mashable!, Techomical and New Scientist Technology Blog.


My Not-so-Broad Broadband

The Internet seems to be crawling today.. so I did a little speedtest, and can’t believe my eyes:

Holy smoke! Please don’t tell Comcast, they might just have the idea of billing me extra. But it still feels sloooow.


Elton John: Shut Down the Internet

I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.

Ouch… I’ve never thought the day would come when I’d prefer Sir Elton keep his mouth shut.smile_zipit
(full story at The Sun and CNet)


P.S.  I’ve never thought I’d ever see Sir Elton on TechMeme, either smile_angel

Update: (7/6/2010):  Apparently Sir Elton forgot to shut this thing off.  Three years later it’s now Prince’s turn.  Oh, well… we’ll check back on this in 2013…