Monday, December 31, 2007

Valleywag Hits the Nail on the Head

I love when Valleywag has short, sarcastic posts that articulately report an event/make a point. And they did today about our immigration policy regarding educated individuals. Check it out.

Happy New Years all!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving (and Beardvember)!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. And, as my friends at home have found out (to their horror), a happy Beardvember. It's gotten pretty bushy, and I'll be sure to post pictures at the end of the month...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Killer Apps

My last post got me thinking about killer apps, and just how crucial they are to the success of a website. Taking into account the Facebook example I gave in that post (how Facebook's first killer app was basically the ability to look up/keep tabs on hotties of the opposite sex), perhaps it's not so much killer apps as killer purposes to use a website.

But regardless of what it's called, I truly believe it's necessary for a website to succeed. I hear a lot of pitches that paint a picture of an elaborate, multifunctional online ecosystem, and how it would be so great for some large set of internet users. So of course, the first question I ask them is, "What's the killer app?" For some (very few, unfortunately), the answer is easy, even if it's something like "Well, it's different for different kind of users." (The latter is definitely the case with Athleague.)

But for the vast majority, I get a dumb-struck look for a split second, and then the confident assertion that the killer app is "everything" because it's entire package of features that makes their concept so great. Honestly, I just don't buy it.

Maybe it's because I'm something of a disciple of Scott Rafer (he's only been beating the concept into me for a year and a half...), but I think this line of thinking represents the way real people work and how they adopt websites.

A salient personal example is Gmail. My best friend (and co-founder at Athleague) managed to get his hands on an early beta invite. Right away, I got my first killer "app" - the exact address I wanted (because there were very few existing accounts then). Then came the second killer app - college. Specifically, as I'm in college, I'm on a bunch of list servs with varying degrees of importance. To this end, the conversations feature was amazing - I can't imagine what my inbox would look like if a thread of 30 emails were displayed as individual messages. Finally, I looked for an online email solution (rather than a desktop application) in the first place because I knew I'd be using a variety of computers to check my email. This last feature (being able to check email on any computer with an internet connection), however, was by no means a killer reason to use Gmail in particular, only an online email service.

The clear take-away for me is that killer app(s) drove my Gmail usage. But this post is about a couple questions, the first being, is this how you function? Is it one or two features that cause you to use the websites and applications that you use? Or is it a variety of features that all happen to be at the same place (and am I just an idiot? - wait don't answer that one)?

The second quandary also deals with an aside from my previous post: are we out of killer apps? To be clear, I think the term "killer app" can mean anything from small to large. For example, driving directions were the killer app for people using MapQuest in the late 90's, but the ability to drag routes to create waypoints on Google maps, an innovation on an already common feature, could be a killer app for real estate agents. Today, we're seeing innovations mostly of the latter kind (it's hard to create a whole new branch of features/applications - virtual worlds is a potential example).

So yeah - whats sorts of killer apps do we have yet to see in the near future, if any? And, of those, do any present an opportunity for an internet company to make serious money?

Friday, November 02, 2007


I don't get it. The Valley is going nuts over OpenSocial. And yeah, it's cool. But not "checkmate" cool, as TechCrunch seems to think.

Yes open source is great. Yes platforms are greater. Look at what Wikipedia has done, harnessing the wisdom and intelligence of the masses - it's created what is probably the largest factual database in the history of mankind within only a few years.

But let's take a step back. Only a few months ago, Facebook's new platform was all the rage. Fast forward to today and, well, what's changed? I'm talking user experience. And when you boil it down, not much has. I don't have any stats, and maybe apps have revolutionized the Facebook experience for some small subset of users, but the core reason people log on to Facebook hasn't really changed.

And that's what Facebook is about. What the internet is about. People. You can make all the platforms you want, but it's very hard to change the way people operate.

People base their web behavior around killer apps. For example, Facebook's first killer app was basically dating/sex - a tool for checking out the fine (or ugly) guys or girls at your school. Then Facebook introduced pictures, which became a killer app for some. To a lesser extent, the news feed was a killer app, a reason to log on. Ditto with Walls and birthday reminders.

For the core of Facebook's users - that young, college-aged, 20s demographic - OpenSocial changes, well, nothing. Hell, I'm not sure I'll ever leave Facebook, if only because the vast majority of visual documentation of my 4 years at Penn (pictures) are on their servers.

But I digress. The point is that, so far, internet platforms (Facebook being the only example) haven't, on the whole, created killer apps. Who's to say OpenSocial will? And even if it does, will it steal traffic from Facebook?

(As an unrelated/related aside, writing this post got me thinking about the web and killer apps in general. Because, at it's core, that's what Web 2.0 is about - harnessing advancements in a variety of fields (everything from bandwidth speeds to "new" languages like AJAX) to create a new set of killer apps. But if platforms are unable to come up with this new set, how about the internet as a whole? This relays directly into what is, in my opinion, the question of the day: are we in a bubble?

And from this line of thinking, the answer is surprisingly clear and yet still fundamentally complex: if the current set of web companies can't succeed in developing new killer apps - websites that truly give us the ability to do things we could never do before (interactive virtual worlds, for example) and make those things worth doing (so maybe virtual worlds aren't an example:) - we're in trouble.

Maybe that's deep or maybe it's foolishly obvious, make of it what you will.)

(As a second aside, I thought I'd reference a post a wrote over the summer, when Facebook's platform was the big story. The post voices my thoughts on open platforms and suggests that maybe Google or Yahoo should launch one of their own (wait, did I predict OpenSocial?:). Specifically, I wonder if OpenSocial will take the structure outlined in the post or something else entirely.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Facebook Apps

I know this blog has been silent of late. I apologize. We're working, plus I'm back at school and am dealing with classes as well.

But anyway, I've been doing some thinking about Facebook apps recently. When they came out, they were all the rage in the Valley (and elsewhere, to a lesser extent). Each VC asked you about your "Facebook strategy" and the like. Hell, a number of VC firms started (or flirted with starting) microfunds dedicated solely to Facebook apps.

As an interesting side note, I got a bit of a sneak peak into this process. At the beginning of the summer, a good friend (Scott, of course) put me in touch with Greylock regarding the project that has now become Athleague. Greylock approached us as part of an initiative within the firm to provide Facebook applications with small (low 5 figure) seed rounds. As we corresponded throughout the summer, their enthusiasm for Facebook app funding slowly waned until, in August, they told us they weren't going forward with the microfinancing idea anymore.

I'd say the general pulse on Facebook apps has followed the same trend. Through there are some who still swear that the Facebook platform is the next Windows (something I did when the Platform first came out), the general consensus seems to be that apps, at least right now, aren't capable of making much money.

So that brings us back to the question - is the platform really that big of a deal, or not? I've been brainstorming, and I still think it could be. Specifically, when thinking about our Facebook strategy, I've realized that our app needs to be one that closely integrates with our website.

And perhaps, in a broader sense, that could be the key. Perhaps the apps themselves aren't as important as the traffic they drive to their website they represent. This, of course, calls for tight integration - allowing users to access and alter data from both portals (the website itself and Facebook) and giving them a compelling reason to go to an app's website after installing the app.

It could be a while before we actually see these kinds of apps. But, long run, I think these are the ones that could actually fulfill the promise (monetarily and utility-wise) of the Facebook platform.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Announcing: Athleague

So this blog has been silent for a while. And it's because we've been busy - we being Athleague, a project I've been spending the summer on.

In short, Athleague aims to be the social utility of all amateur athletes of all ages - a place to find the best local soccer league or pick up game, or a tool to organize your team or league. However, we have a humble initial goal - to be an online solution for league administrators. Feel free to read more about us on The Official Athleague Blog.

What's even cooler is that we're now in public beta. To test out our site, go to and register for an account. Create and join teams and leagues and, above all, tell us what you think! If you don't understand something, it's because we suck and didn't explain it. Let us know what we're doing wrong, and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Open Platforms

You're sure this is going to be about Facebook, right?

Not so much, though Facebook is definitely the inspiration. Actually my quandary has more to do with the two 800 lb. gorillas in the web space. Specifically, why don't they open up a "platform," or at least something resembling one?

Really, all the Facebook platform does is two things: 1) it lets you log on to other websites using your Facebook login and put some self-expressive/marginally useful widget on your profile, and 2) it give third party applications certain information that Facebook has collected to enhance the application quality and experience.

Well, minus the profile widgets, can't Yahoo and Google do the same? Personally, Google knows a ton about me - my contacts, my searches, the ads I've clicked on, and probably more stuff that I don't want to even know they know. So, why not open up a platform?

Hell, it could be as easy as letting third party websites authenticate users via their Google/Yahoo log in, a little bit like the login process of websites that have been bought by either of the two (Blogger, Flickr, etc.). How cool would it be to be able to try out new websites without having to go through the annoying sign-up/verification? Maybe that particular feature is targeted more at the early adopter crowd, but I'm sure the geniuses at those companies can come up with a compelling list of benefits for the average user.

I mean, say, all of a sudden, you could log on to any website with your Yahoo email address and password. I haven't touched my Yahoo account in years, but I'd dust it off if it could all of a sudden get me access to every site on the web. And maybe they could negotiate putting a Yahoo ad next to the log in box on every page.

It's a little easier said then done, but maybe one of the big boys will have the cojones to try something crazy...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Basketball's Moneyball

Surprisingly hard-hitting article on the NBA draft coming out of today. In the piece, John Hollinger proposes a statistical system for judging incoming collegiate basketball talent, an approach reminiscent of the Oakland A's draft strategy, as discussed in Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

It's a great study - Hollinger really breaks down the draft and assembles an algorithm that does a great job rating the players - better than the market does (based on comparing results from the system applied to previous drafts with how the drafts themselves played out). It's by no means a quantum leap, but it still does appear to do a significantly better job.

I guess it's just further proof that market efficiency rears its (pretty? ugly? you decide) head everywhere. It'll be interesting to see how, if at all, these rankings affect how the draft actually goes down...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Penn-er Tearing Up the Blogosphere

Specifically, Emily Smith, a friend and classmate. She's interning at the DNC and is a contributer on the DNC blog (I know, how cool is that). You can read one of her recent posts here. Keep checking back, as I'm sure she'll be tearing it up through the summer and beyond. And Em - get a dedicated blog so you can tell us how crazy the world is 24/7.

It's amazing how the web is changing the way campaigns are run. Good luck to her and all those embracing it:).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why I Love Technology

Just thought I'd continue the "Why I Love" theme. I've got a meeting with Scott Rafer in a few hours, and he said we should meet at a coffee shop on Union Square, as we'd be here for Supernova anyway. I said sure, but asked him which one. He responded by saying he had no idea what the name was, but sent me a picture. I got on Google maps, switched into street view, and scanned for a coffee shop that matched the picture. It took all of 30 seconds. That's why I love technology.

Why I Love the Valley

I'm here at Supernova, but I've got a completely unrelated story I wanted to share. On the way here this morning, I took Caltrain and decided to walk here to Union Square from the SF station in SOMA. I've walked it a bunch before, but I was a little curious how many blocks it was. So, I turned and asked the person walking next to me. Our conversation:

"Hey, how many blocks is it to Union Square?"
"No idea, I work a couple blocks from the station and don't really walk all the way there."
"Oh, where do you work?"

How cool is that. I love how I can walk down a street here and randomly meet a guy working for one of Silicon Valley's most hyped companies. Though we tend to hype quite a few ventures, some of the hype inevitably translates to revolutionary companies that change the way we live. Maybe Powerset isn't one of them, but maybe it is, and it's cool that it started here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Supernova, June 21-22

Just wanted to let you all know I'll be at Supernova at this Thursday and Friday (June 21st and 22nd). Supernova is a tech/business conference put on by the Wharton School with a bunch of pretty cool speakers and whatnot, and it'll be at the Westin St. Francis hotel in Union Square. If you want to meet up there or in the city at any point Thursday and Friday (and possibly Wednesday), drop me a line.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blogger Bug?

Not a huge one, but an annoying one. When you start a post and save it as draft form, Blogger saves the time/date you started the post, and, when you eventually put the post up, attaches the saved time/date to the post, rather than the time/date at the time of posting.

Most of the time, this isn't a big deal. However, I'm a fan of starting posts and then leaving them in draft form to revise or finish later - not an entirely uncommon drafting method.

Well, with Blogger, say you start a long post, save it in draft form, and then put up a short post about a random thought the next day. When you come back to the first piece and finish it, it appears below the second post on your blog, even though it was posted later.

So, if you want the post you just finished to be the first one on your blog, you have to copy the text to a new post. Not hard, just annoying.

The above also explains why my Facebook Platform post says it went up May 30th when, in reality, it was posted June 10th. Like I said, not a huge bug, but odd that Google hasn't thought of or noticed it...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nuclear Power

Today's article in the Merc got me thinking. The piece was the second of a two part series on green energy. The first focused on the usual suspects (solar, wind, water, etc.), but today's discussed some of the pros and cons of nuclear power, touting it as the "alternative-energy dark horse."

My first thought was a deep one: "Duh." I've often wondered what happened to the promise of nuclear power, especially as greentech companies have been getting more and more funding over the past couple of years. Decades ago, nuclear power was touted as the answer to our energy problems. But here we are today, putting more stock in the sun, water, and wind to power our future.

And I don't really understand why. In my mind, nuclear power is clearly the future. My math might be fuzzy here (or I could just be wrong, feel free to call me out), but I'm pretty sure nuclear power holds a magnitude or two (or more?) more promise than other forms of alternative energy. Quite literally, nuclear reactions release much more power than those that take place in solar cells and windmills. Take a basic quantum class and you realize E=
mc2 means you can get a ton of energy out of a relatively small amount of mass.

Granted, nuclear power is not without its drawbacks. The technology behind current plants, fission reactions, creates radioactive byproducts and is generally hard to control (though many plants have done so successfully). However, as the article points out, these products are limited to small amounts and probably do less damage than all the carbon we're emitting into the atmosphere.

Furthermore, fission power is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Anyone remember SimCity 2000 (circa 1995ish)? Remember speeding up time so you could get the fusion power plant? Granted, an actual fusion power plant is still far in the future (I think the game put it as being available in 2040), but I'm fairly sure we'll see on in our lifetime. As some of you know, fusion is fission's stronger, cleaner big brother.

(Quick physics lesson being done from memory - correct me if I'm wrong: Fission takes an atom, usually uranium, and pulls it separates it into two atoms while fusion combines two atoms into one. Both reactions release energy corresponding to the loss in mass, according to E=mc2.)

Point is, at the quantum level, energy is abundant. Harnessing these powerful reactions safely is the key to unlocking the potential they hold. Nuclear power is one great example of this, and others will surely emerge as research is done. Perhaps someday, mega-powerful reactions like combining matter and antimatter (referenced in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons) will be commonplace sources of energy.

For the time being, searching the world around us for natural forms of energy is a noble goal. But, in the long run, we're going to need to think small to find the energy we need - so shouldn't we start putting money there now?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

F8, the Facebook Platform

I know this blog has been silent for the past month now, and I apologize. Finals came and went, and I'm now back home in the Valley.

This post is going to be short, and probably not even very sweet, but I had to put something up about Facebook's new platform because it's so, so cool. More accurately, it shows that Facebook really gets it. The company understands the tech world, the power of third party developers, and, above all, that the best way to increase revenue is to grow the pie rather than the company's slice.

The platform has been compared to a variety of other product launches in tech history, but the one that comes to my mind - Windows - hasn't been mentioned much. I wrote a few months ago about how I believed MySpace was in trouble with their fluctuating stance on widgets. Well, Facebook's move could very well go down as the nail in the coffin.

The parallels to Windows (and the OS wars) are eerie. The most obvious is that, just as Microsoft did, Facebook is allowing developers to keep 100% of the revenue that third party Facebook applications generate. That alone is huge - instead of worrying whether you're going to be shut down (like widgets do on MySpace), you're sure that you'll profit off whatever value you create.

Facebook is striving to create an open and level playing field for application developers, and the platform is a monumental step in that direction. It'll be interesting to see which applications make the biggest splash...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wanted: You

That's right. If you've got skills, that is.

Specifically, I'm looking for people to join me on a start up I'm getting off the ground. It's in the realm of Web 2.0 (of course, though I detest using buzz words) and sports. If you've got familiarity with programming (any or hopefully all of the following: PHP/MySQL, HTML, CSS, AJAX, etc.), leave a comment, shoot me an email (, facebook me, call me, or whatever else. Location isn't crucial, but being in the Bay Area or Boston is preferred. Hope to hear from you soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Facebook + VTech

GigaOm has a great article up today on the effect of social websites, Facebook in particular, on the dissemination of news and, on a larger level, the legitimacy of the web (and, again, Facebook in particular) as a avenue of communicating emotion (in this case, the vast number of groups and events that have popped up on the site in response to Monday's events at Virginia Tech).

And it's completely true. Though the internet will always be the internet, a form of communication more impersonal than phone calls and actual human contact, it has increased in emotional relevance - emails are pretty much as intimate as snail mail notes (though 10 years ago many said this would never happen), Facebook wall posts are an acceptable way to wish your friend happy birthday (though a phone call usually means more), etc. The groups formed and profile pictures changed in response to Monday's tragedy, though on a website, express and symbolize true empathy and support.

Whether it's setting up a group to let your friends know you're OK or joining one to show your unity in standing behind Virginia Tech and its victims, the web is changing. Welcome to a more connected world.

(PS - I have to say this blog has reached a new low - I'm now blogging in class. In my defense, my prof is droning on about why his memorization and superficial project-based class, disliked by all, was actually useful.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Vigil - 4/19 @ 9pm

Hey all - just thought I'd put up a quick post about the vigil to be held tomorrow night (Thursday, April 19th) for the tragedy that happened on Monday at Virginia Tech. It's on College Green (Locust between 34th and 36th) at 9pm. Whether you're a Penn kid or a Philadelphian, try and make it out and show your support for the victims. Most of you I'm sure have already heard of it, but I thought I'd do what I could to help spread the word.

The tragedy was a little closer to home for me than most, as Virginia Tech is my Dad's alma matter (and the school that afforded him the right to come to America). It's a true shame, and I'm sure our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and friends. I was going to put up a dedicated post on the topic, but I really couldn't (and can't) find the words.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Google Clicks Twice

You really shouldn't be getting your news here first (especially not this story), but I had to put something up about Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, the online banner advertising giant, on Friday. Here is a link to the story on TechCrunch, and here's an interesting article up today on GigaOm.

Arrington makes an interesting point in his article - Google paid a price that's 10x the company's revenue, a staggering amount for a mature company.

Some of the pundits have been calling it a "strategic acquisition" to justify the price, but something just seems off to me. $3 billion is a lot of money, and I think it's probably too much. Microsoft had been rumored to be interested at around $2 billion, but Google came (way) over the top.

What do you guys think? Is Google getting carried away with these purchases just because they have boatloads of cash, or is DoubleClick really worth that much? And another odd point - does anyone notice how much less attention this purchase is getting than that of YouTube. Google spends twice as much money and gets half as much press. I mean, everyone around campus was talking about the YouTube deal, but I haven't heard anyone mention DoubleClick over the past few days.

On a quasi-related note, is it just me or is the tide turning against the Mountain View titan? Maybe turn is an overstatement, but I think the winds are beginning to change. Fred Wilson has a great post up today where he astutely points out that Google has to start worrying more about the quality of their lawyers than that of their engineers, which can never be a good thing.

As they've become a big company, they're inevitably lost some of their ability to innovate or even incubate innovation. Just read the Dodgeball founders' post on Flickr. Dodgeball was all the craze not that long ago, but, after being acquired by Google, they've been beaten out by Twitter in the social texting space. The founders complain, rightfully so, that the lack of resources Google sent their way was to blame for the loss in market share.

Wow, this post got longer than I had planned. My basic question is what do you think about all this? As usual, disagreement is highly encouraged and preferred...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

MySpace Response

So my buddy Sergey Lossev (Founder/CEO of VCEL) wrote a post in response to my last one about MySpace and Photobucket entitled "Blocking Photobucktet: not as stupid as you think."

He makes some good points, basing his argument around the following tenants:
In order to sustain their leadership MySpace needs to make sure to:

1) Drive a sustainable and large enough revenue stream via advertisement
2) Make sure that the quality of the content and the userbase remains intact. Meaning that the ratio of Signal to Noise in this network needs to favor signal as much as possible (e.g Have real private messages and comments vs robot spam)
Both very good points, especially the second. MySpace has a vast audience, so obviously advertisers are going to pushing for ways to get their wares in front of all those eyeballs.

But one point of his represents the crux of our disagreement - that MySpace needs to ensure they get 100% of the revenue from their site (or at least the majority of it - he mentions widget revenue share at the bottom of the post). Basically, he's taking the same stance as MySpace itself - the site shouldn't let parasitic companies make money off their traffic.

But that's exactly my point - they should. They should let others make money off their site. Because while MySpace is great, it's all the cool widgets that make it even more great.

Philosophically, that's exactly what being "open" is about - freeing oneself and one's company from greed (I'm loving the hippie slant to that last phrase) and understanding that if they don't embrace the little guy trying to make a buck, one of those little guys could be the one that ends up killing them. Going back to the OS Wars, it's the same thing as Apple saying they want to make all the money from the software and Microsoft being content with letting 3rd party software developers make a fortune as long as they do it gives people more of a reason to buy Windows. By dangling the incentive of money, you effectively have the entire widget development community working for you.

Now the times have changed, and it's understandable for MySpace to want to see some of the money widgets make because they're not exactly making money for signing up users (where Microsoft makes a bundle for each OS sold). So fine - work out a rev share with widget developers. And I think that's where Sergey and I have an area of agreement on the issue.

Maybe you've noticed that I've ignored the signal vs. noise issue. It's basically because I have no answer, except that maybe it's a non sequitur. What about letting widget developers make money encourages noise? I mean, I kinda see it - advertisements can be spam, and if you let people make money they're going to want to push ads and whatnot as much as possible. But you get a bit of a free market effect going on - if a widget is pushing spam and it pisses users off, then it will become less popular. And because widget developers rely on MySpace to put food on their table, they're not going to want to lose popularity.

Essentially, allowing them to make money outsources creativity. And creativity and new features keep users coming back for more and staying in love with a service, even if there is better stuff out there. Microsoft has done just that with Windows.

And then you can pull the second page out of the Microsoft book and copy what widgets and crush the competition (like Lotus and Word). Gotta love the boys in Redmond.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MySpace's Doom

It's been a while, hasn't it? I apologize (but don't say I didn't warn you) - life has been beyond hectic.

I figured something would wake me from my blog slumber. A couple weeks back, the combination of a few friends' remarks and an article on CNN got me pretty pissed, and I started a draft on the brain drain our country is experiencing, stemming from the lack of emphasis on the sciences and engineering. Unfortunately, work came up, and I lost motivation to finish it. I promise I will because it's something I've been meaning to blog about for a while, but don't hold your breath.

What actually did the trick was MySpace, returning to the forefront of stupidity. A few weeks ago, I wrote the boys at NewsCorp an open letter, suggesting what they could do to ensure they remain the #1 social networking site: open up.

However, being a bastion of corporate foolishness, they don't realize their precarious position. Recently, they blocked PhotoBucket videos on MySpace, leaving millions of users without video on their pages.

It's mind boggling. They really don't get it. They just don't. I think their fate is sealed.

And I wanted to update one thing on the open letter post - Facebook is more "open" than I gave them credit for. Although they limit the personalization of pages, they understand the importance of third party developers and apparently have a sweet API. The whispers at first were that it was too limited to do anything cool with, but now it's loosened up a bit and some pretty nice stuff is being built around it. I can't attest to this myself as I haven't used it, so if any of you want to chime in that'd be great.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I know this blog usually tends towards start ups, tech stuff, and the like, but I thought I'd take a moment to recognize the toughness and courage displayed by some of my classmates down in Kentucky this afternoon, where the Penn basketball team took on Texas A&M, the 7th ranked team in the country, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

In case you didn't watch, our boys really did us proud today. Every year, we finish near the top of the Ivy League, and when we win it (as we've done my 3 years here), we earn the right to be first round fodder for one of the best teams in the country in the tournament.

Last year, as a 15th seed against 2nd seeded Texas, we managed to be leading at halftime and lost by less than 10, a remarkable feat. But, in some ways, today's performance topped that. Our beloved Quakers, marred by awful shooting, were down by 13 points in the first half and 15 early in the second.

At this point, how easy would it have been to throw in the towel? Just a few hours earlier, Stanford, a higher ranked team playing a lesser opponent in Louisville, got thrashed early and never mustered the fight to come back. We were up against one of the best teams in the country, and everyone could see it. The Texas A&M players dwarfed our own, and you could see the sheer superior talent in first team All American (read: one of the top 5 players in the country) Acie Law and his teammates.

But we didn't roll over. Mustering strength I don't think anyone knew we had, we closed the lead and even managed to build one of our own (39-37). And though Texas A&M ended up winning in the end, our performance was one of the most inspiring things I've seen in a while.

Whether it's a start up trying to take down Google or a bunch of Ivy League nerds attempting the impossible, the importance of resilience can never be overstated. Talent and skill are necessary, sure, but faith and perseverance are often discounted in today's world. I know, it's cliche. But, though it often doesn't seem like it on this blog, today, I'm proud to be a Quaker.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Om's Thoughts on India

Om Malik (of GigaOm fame) wrote an article a couple days ago on his take on India's emergence. In a word, it's beautiful.

Seriously, go read it. You know that India piece I referred to a few times on this blog (that is still lying in my drafts...)? This is like that except on a level I don't think I could ever achieve. It captures the both the analytical and emotional reactions of a first generation immigrant returning to his homeland.

(And I will get that post up at some point. It just may not be soon.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Home

My blog moved! Didn't notice? Check the address bar - I'm now at The muse hit me and I decided I needed to have my own domain name. For $2, I'd say it's worth it. Change your bookmarks and tell all your friends...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dear NewsCorp

and Rupert Murdoch,

RE: MySpace

Why do you do the things you do? Over the weekend, you blocked Imeem, a popular widget provider.

Now, I don't know what Imeem is. Nor do I, unlike the 100+ million around the globe, even use your service all that much. (MySpace missed me - it got "cool" for my little sister, so then I couldn't use it of course, and didn't get "cool" for me till I already had Facebook.)

But I watch you from afar and wonder why, oh why, you do the crazy things you do. And today I finally had to blog about it.

You stumbled into a gold mine. The founders launched a solid product and made the right moves to get it popular. Then you came along and bought the site for extremely cheap ($580 million) by today's standards. (Facebook wants almost 4 times what you got for far fewer users than you had when you sold.)

Now you, a bunch of media execs, are trying to run one of the biggest websites on the planet. And I applaud the effort - you're really doing a decent job - because you have the balls to venture into a new space rather than sit back and deny its importance to your own doom.

So I know you mean well with your attempts to kill widgets and keep the site nice and closed and safe. On the surface, it may even seem like wisdom - keep foreign things to a minimum because they could be bad and security is important. But there's definitely a little greed there - you don't want other people profiting off your site. And why would you, it's yours.

Here's why - those pesky little widgets you've been trying to kill are going to keep you alive. MySpace, as an independent organization, may have had a slight penchant for innovation. As a huge, bloated, media corporation, you have none. The men and women behind those widgets, however, are some of the brightest and most forward-thinking minds this country has to offer. And, guess what? They're working for you. They may be taking some of your pie, probably more of the pie than you give to your developers. But they're making your pie bigger.

For that, you should thank them, not kill them. And thank arguably your biggest competitor, Facebook, for making sure no one can develop widgets for their site.

While you're at it, crack open a history book or two. Maybe it's a stretch, but that nagging voice in my head tells me we've seen this one before. Inferior but open source technology against brilliant product with a proprietary system and a purist bent? Dare I say it? Microsoft vs. Apple? The OS wars? Learn from the past - encourage third party developers to build widgets and whatever else on top of your site (and, hell, you could take a play from Microsoft's playbook and reverse engineer the widget and add it to your product. Or you could just be nice and buy them). But you probably will want to invest a bit in make sure security on the site is top notch.

In other words, take the lesson from that old fable: don't kill the Goose that laid the golden egg. It never works out well for you.

(PS - If you're really bored, count how many times I've referenced the OS wars on this blog. I know it's a little hackneyed, but it's a classic example displaying the wisdom of quite a few tenants in the tech world. And there's tons of parallels to whats going on today in various situations. Really, why isn't this stuff more obvious? Do people just not think to look to the past to decipher the future? Or perhaps the view from the ivory tower tricks CEOs into thinking they'll succeed where others failed...)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Interesting Response

Robert Scoble pointed today to this article written by Dan Dodge in response to the Google Apps announcement yesterday. This is the second time I've heard the "Don't worry, we're taking care of it" answer from Microsoft (the first being Ballmer himself here at Penn). And it's a kinda convincing, I'm not going to lie. Microsoft has been thought to be on the way down before, only to come back in seemingly effortless fashion (think Netscape and Explorer).

Anyway, decent read, and I'm loving the reference to Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma, a great book (thanks for making me read it over the summer, Dad). At least Gates & Co. are well versed.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Google Declares War

It's about time. After the rumor mill churned out whispers that Google had a big announcement coming regarding its Office-like web apps, it came as little surprise when the news hit today. But that doesn't mean it isn't big news.

Google unveiled a combined office suite for businesses, packaging its documents, spreadsheet, calendaring, and email software. The combined entity will cost $50 a year, a user. Though it's ideal for small businesses looking to save money, Google has already signed GE and P&G as users. Checkout the usuals (GigaOm, TechCrunch, etc.) for fuller stories, and there's a nice InformationWeek article here.

The War has officially begun. The one that we'll be telling our kids about. Since Google's first strike comes as Microsoft is trying to convince the world to upgrade to Office 2007, the company will probably draw first blood, but the blow will hardly be fatal. If consumers adopt Vista, Microsoft will own the OS for at least the next 5 years, giving the Empire a window to Strike Back. Simply put, in the long run, the boys in Redmond will need to find a way to capitalize on what they're good at, probably by tying desktop apps in with a web-based ones. Just how they do it remains to be seen...

This should be very fun to watch. Strap in and enjoy.

(This is the kind of thing that deserves a long, analytical post. And there's no way that's going to happen anytime soon. Nat, you were telling me you wanted blogging ideas - here's one on a silver platter. And anyone else, if you want to make some predictions, I'd love to read 'em.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wharton Tech Conference

So a last night a friend asked if I'd be interested in attending the Wharton Tech Conference this Friday. Of course, my first reaction was "Wharton Tech" anything had to be a top 10 oxymoron. No way I'd be caught dead at this thing, right?

But then I thought about it. I don't have class on Friday, and even though I'll probably be out with Jack for his birthday the night before, I can pull myself out of bed and get downtown by mid morning. And possibly get Nat to join me? (PS - Jack, you need to have a blog so I can link to you when I do that.) (PPS - Mom, Dad, ignore that sentence. I'm going to be diligently studying. :)

I mean, I've got recruiting to do, and I might run into a someone I could bring on for various projects. Right, that won't happen there. But I may as well see how this side of the world tries to do tech while I'm out here (1.5 years and counting. Go time, go.).

So in case you're in the area and want to be amused for the day, leave a comment and come join me. I'll be that kid blogging (or probably working) in the corner who sticks out because he doesn't realize that "jeans and a t-shirt" isn't the dress code for a tech conference on the least coast.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

CommunityNext Wrap-up

The CommunityNext Conference yesterday at Stanford was a huge success. Props to Noah Kagan, CambrianHouse, and everyone else who made it possible (both for me and in general).

I'll be fleshing out a lot of what went on in the coming day (and by that I mean probably after my Math 412 midterm on Wednesday), but a few highlights:
  • The SkinnyCorp guys (Jeffrey Kalmikoff and Jack Nickell) stole the show. Their company executes a series of ideas that "would be cool." Their biggest project as of now is threadless, but naked and angry and extra tasty are making waves as well.
  • James Hong telling the HotOrNot story: "So we were drinking one afternoon at 3pm, because we were unemployed of course, and my friend mentions me recently met a Perfect 10..." But in all honesty, he had some great insights about getting a website off the ground. James also put a great post a few days ago about staying hungry.
  • The enthusiasm about community. The passion was palpable. It's a little Zen-like, but it was great to reaffirm that the Valley, at its core, is about passion and not money (embodied by the SkinnyCorp guys).
  • Getting recognized:). Kind of at least. I was talking to RapLeaf co-founder Vivek Sodera about school and life and whatnot. When I brought up attending Wharton, he mentioned that he'd read in a blog somewhere that the entrepreneurial environment there was awful. I sheepishly told him that, yeah, I wrote that.
I also have some bad news - nothing major, but I wouldn't expect blog posts here nearly as often as they've been coming. I aim for 3 a week, but in the coming weeks I'll be lucky to do one a week. Life and projects are beyond hectic. Hopefully once the smoke clears I'll have something sweet to write about...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jobs creates a stir

Steve Jobs is at it again. I'm assuming most of you have read his Thoughts on Music. Jobs lays out the state of the music world and three alternatives for the future. He uses the post to explain why Apple must slap DRMs on music sold on iTunes, making it playable only on iPods. His three alternatives, continuing the current system of separate DRMs for each company, licensing its DRM (FairPlay) to other sites, or removing DRMs altogether, basically serve to explain that the current state needs to be changed. His conclusion is a plea to the Big 4 Labels (Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI) to help charter a course along the lines of the last option.

It's a solid analysis and definitely a fairly impartial article. However, it smells just slightly of a PR move, showing the people that Jobs and Apple are on their side. His point (doing away with DRMs) is fairly obvious and a sentiment almost all readers are inclined to agree with. Of course, getting rid of DRMs will boost iTunes sales, so Jobs is definitely speaking mostly from the heart.

Interesting response on Mark Cuban's blog. Not what Jobs wants to hear, but Cuban urges the major labels to build a iTunes clone as a joint venture, get rid of DRMs, and monetize both the music and the traffic on their new music purchase platform(via Yahoo's Panama or Google's AdSense). There's a bunch of other great responses out there, but too many to link to.

Once again, sorry for the lack of posts - crazy times in West Phil these days. As I mentioned in the last post, I'll be home for CommunityNext at Stanford this Saturday. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Going, Going Back, Back

(to Cali, Cali) I'm assuming 99.3% of you didn't get that reference. Anywho, point is I will be returning to Bay Area for the CommunityNext Conference next weekend, thanks to a number of people. The conference is at Stanford on February 10th. More details here.

I couldn't leave out some shout outs to people that are making this happen. Jing, Noah, and Cambrian House, thanks for setting this up (and letting me go), making the introductions and organizing the conference, and actually getting me there, respectively.

If you'd like to meet up, feel free to leave a comment and I'll see you at Stanford on the 10th.

And sorry the blog has been bare as of late. This place is keeping me more than busy. I have tons of drafts that are half done and I promise I will get around to finishing them asap. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The most recent example of corporate stupidity comes from our friends at Cingular and AT&T. As most of you probably know, it's now just AT&T.

I understand (at a very basic level) the company line on the move: They're trying to better integrate their various services to capitalize on core competencies and create synergies between divisions, and unifying the brand is a logical step in convincing customers AT&T offers a comprehensive communication solution.

But, seriously, are they for real? Not only are they nixing a brand that has built up quite a bit of brand equity and loyalty, but they also just made the opposite change shortly after the merger. AT&T Wireless figured to piggyback off Cingular's visibility and decided to centralize under the latter's name not too long ago. Now, they're taking one of the most recognizable name in the mobile business out of the market. In the short term, it's going to mean confused customers ("Where did Cingular go?") and unnecessary expenses (there must have been a dozen commercials during the NFC and AFC Championship games today).

But my beef with the move centers on the rationale behind it. Maybe its a generational thing, but I just don't think the AT&T's brand name is better than Cingular's. AT&T is old school, a lumbering giant that you wouldn't expect to be on the forefront of innovation, while Cingular is new and cool. And they've definitely put effort into making it seem that way (remember all those Cingular ads during the Super Bowl a few years ago?). The switch negates all that. To top it off, it looks completely ridiculous - what kind of company changes their name one way only to change it back a few years later?

Of course, it's a great way to reinforce the stereotype that you're clumsy, confused, and, well, a lumbering giant. Gotta love the irony. Good luck, AT&T.

(Oh, and an apology for dropping all the b-school lingo. I promise I understand it's all nonsense. Everyone knows there's no such thing as synergy. Outside of management class, that is.:)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1 Suit, 2 Suit, Red Suit, Blue Suit

Mark Cuban wrote a great rant on suits today. Check it out, it's pretty funny and definitely highlights one of the odder traditions that has developed in our society.

Of course, most Whartonites here would balk at the article (as my roommates did when I passed it on to them). As they well should, since it tears into an institution they hold incredibly dear. :)

Then again, I wonder how much they'll love it when they drop hundreds (or thousands?) of dollars on suits this summer, only to drench them in sweat as they rush through 100 degree heat from the subway to the office.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Surprise! eBay buys Stubhub

I don't know if anyone saw this coming. For the second time this week, a company I'm fairly close with got bought. This time it was eBay purchasing Stubhub for around $310 million. Unlike most acquisitions of this size, there weren't many rumors floating around until shortly before the announcement (or at least not any that I heard).

So what to make of it? I have no idea. My gut tells me eBay waited too long to pull the trigger and ended up paying a lot more than they needed to. Even today, the price seems a little steep for a company rumored to be doing about $10 million a year in profit.

The synergy (I hate that word) between the two companies' products is apparent, and a solid integration strategy will be definitely be a value add. But it seems as if eBay employed the "chicken with its head cut off" approach: first ignore the competitor, then scramble to build a half-assed response (search for tickets on eBay and it gives you a special search column but doesn't offer anywhere near the functionality of Stubhub), and finally just acquire.

Ok. That was a little harsh. Overall it's a good deal (especially for Stubhub), and I wish them all the best. Their product offerings overlap nicely, and the deal makes a lot of sense. It's hard to believe I sat down with CEO Jeff Flehr and Head of Marketing Mike James less than a week ago. Ebay definitely got a great website and a dynamite team, which should hopefully make the purchase worthwhile in the end. Many congratulations to Jeff, Mike, and the rest.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Y! buys MyBlogLog

The rumors have been flying for a few weeks, and turns out they were all true. Yahoo has bought MyBlogLog for about $10-$12 million (exact dollar amount not confirmed). I've written about MBL here and here, so I won't bore you with another profile. Basically, great company, and the purchase is especially meaningful for me because their CEO is Scott Rafer, my fearless leader from over the summer. So congrats to him and the entire MBL team, and good luck working for Yahoo.

Update: I figured I should link to GigaOm's article on the acquisition. Gotta love the web - news that it was official traveled so fast that I called Scott to congratulate him while he was still at dinner with Om.

Seeqpod Rises

Seeqpod, a music search and recommendation engine, recently came out of stealth mode and is currently in public beta. The brainchild of CEO Kasian Franks, Seeqpod uses neural networks to approach search and recommendations in an entirely unprecedented way.

So what's the word? Seeqpod is awesome. Seriously, go try it out. Click on music and search for your favorite song. Basically, you can stream music, but, in the process of searching, Seeqpod points you at other songs that you'll probably like, based on your search queries.

Sound like Pandora or Well, it's not. Though it does only music now, the concept behind the company is far more encompassing.

Kasian and his team started with a classic problem - how to get computers to think like humans do. It sounds like AI, but Seeqpod quickly narrowed the scope of their efforts. They sought to create an auto associative approach to search - basically an algorithm that could take two pieces of knowledge and link the two or come up with something new in a fashion similar to what humans do.

Throughout the process, modeling functions of the brain guided their work. So, because we think in terms of ideas and symbols (and not words and grammar), they oriented their project around objects and their relationship to each other. One of my favorite Kasian quotes about the Seeqpod itself is that it "knows that humans associate the color blue with the sky more than anything else," something that other search engines today don't take into account.

Thus, the fruit of their labor is a fundamentally new solution that can be applied to traditional problems - matching content with ads, enabling recommendations, etc. Music search and recommendations is truly only the tip of the iceberg of Seeqpod's aspirations.

Of course, a company's fortunes also depend on the quality of its team. And CEO Kasian Franks is the real deal. Though its accuracy can be questioned, Franks has a solid vision of the future of search and knows how Seeqpod can play into that future. When I asked him the G-question, he pointed out that though Google rules search now, the future will bring changes, and "Google will be only a small piece of tomorrow's search." Bold words, yes, but history tells us he's probably right - 5 or 10 years from now, Google probably won't be the only player in search, and the industry may have adapted to allow multiple companies to coexist.

More than that, though, Kasian embodies the spirit of Silicon Valley. For example, he picked music to roll out the company's beta services because music is "a binding force" and brings people together "like no other glue in the world." Hearing him discuss the project, his passion is apparent, and he believes in his product completely. In the words of a certain someone whom we will be remembering next Monday, he has a dream (for Seeqpod), and he's not afraid to chase it.

Overall, though, the firm's success is doubtful - like all start ups, they face unfavorable odds and will need astute planning, careful risk taking, and a whole lot of luck. When you mention "neural networks search" to Valley veterans, you usually get rolled eyes and bored looks. But Seeqpod just might have what it takes - a solid product and ambitious and talented team - to succed. The rest, as always, is left to chance.

Friday, January 05, 2007

East vs. West, Again

The Merc came out with a great article about business students visiting the Valley today. It featured undergrads and MBAs from the Sloan School at MIT, but also mentioned how Harvard kids, Whartonites, etc. visited during break as well. Entitled, "Suited for a Tech Tour," the piece humorously describes the clash of cultures as the b-school students show up wearing suits.

I'll leave you with one of the many gems in the article: "'[Silicon Valley] is sort of the Athens of our time,' [said] first-year MBA student Justin Kulla."