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Following is the Story about Kiko an online Calender which was sold through eBay.

Straight from Kiko Founder:

Today I listed the main asset of our startup, our web calendar Kiko, on eBay (see the auction). Since we put the eBay post up, there has been much buzz on techcrunch, reddit, etc about Kiko going under. Many people have speculated heavily on why we failed, and, to my amusement, some have even blogged about lessons we can learn from Kiko.

I think there are a lot of lessons other people can take away from Kiko. Most of these are things that someone looking in from the outside wouldn’t know. They don’t have a lot to do with our business model. They don’t have a lot to do with getting stepped on by a giant. Here are the important things that I actually learned from my first startup:

1. Stay Focused. Most entrepreneurs have lots of ideas. Often times, many of them may be really good. I don’t know about you, but my favorite part about startups is talking about new products and new business ideas. If you’re a creative person, it’s very easy to get side-tracked on side ideas when you really should be working on your main one. This is bad. Bad, bad, bad. We did this a lot with Kiko, and it caused many delays in getting the product out the door.

2. Hire Slow, Fire Fast. Picking the right people is life and death for your company. We hired two people for Kiko. One of them (Rich White, our interface designer) was awesome; everything I could have asked for and more: self motivated, entrepreneurial, competant, hard working, and very smart. However, one of our hires turned out to be a huge mistake: he basically spun his wheels, didn’t complete anything, and left for months at a time without word. Working with someone like this can easily make working on your company not very fun at all. If you have any reservations about someone at the outset, you should probably not hire them.

3. Cute hacks can cost you time. Take the time to do things right from the beginning. Seriously.

4. Make an environment where you will be productive. Working from home can be convenient, but often times will be much less productive than a separate space. Also its a good idea to have separate spaces so you’ll have some work/life balance.

5. Get your investors involved. Your investors are there to help you. Get them involved from the start, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think we made the mistake early on of trying to do (and know) everything ourselves, perhaps out of insecurity over being so new to the business world. This is a mistake.

6. Build incrementally. We tried to build the ultimate AJAX calendar all at once. It took a long time. We could have done it piece by piece. Nuff said.

An AJAX calendar is not fundamentally a bad idea (I think we, google calendar, 30boxes, calendar hub, and many others prove that). I don’t think we were doomed from the beginning; I just think we were too slow at times, and focused on the wrong thing at times. I think Kiko is still a good idea that can yield a lot of value to its users, but I won’t be the one to take it there.I’ve had a good time working on Kiko this past year. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve gotten a lot of experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Y Combinator has also been a great funding experience, and helped us out tremendously; I am thankful to be part of that community. Thanks to everyone who has reached out to wish Emmett, Rich and I luck.

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Why do some companies “break through” while so many others do not? Author and business consultant Keith McFarland has spent years researching thousands of private companies in an attempt to answer that very question. After studying the performance of more than 7,000 companies that have appeared on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, McFarland, a former Inc. 500 CEO himself, wrote the best-selling book The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers. Here are 10 secrets to long-term entrepreneurial growth:

1. The sexiest businesses don’t always win.

2. It’s not all about the entrepreneur.

3. Entrepreneurs aren’t always risk takers.

4. Founders don’t need to let go.

5. You don’t necessarily have to stick to your knitting.

6. You don’t need OPM (other people’s money).

7. It’s not all about hiring the right people.

8. It doesn’t matter where you went to school.

9. You don’t have to let the MBAs take over.

10. Strategy isn’t just the job of the CEO.

Source Yahoo Finance

Original Article by Mark Cuban Blogger @ CNET.Com

Here “My” and/or “IRefers to Author Mark Cuban.

My buddy Jason had a GREAT post about rules for startups. Read it, love it learn it.

Of course, anyone who has started a company has their own rules and guidelines, so I thought i would add to the meme with my own. My “rules” below aren’t just for those founding the companies, but for those who are considering going to work for them as well.

1. Don’t start a company unless its an obsession and something you love.

2. If you have an exit strategy, its not an obsession.

3. Hire people who you think will love working there.

4. Sales Cures All. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.

5. Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people that fit your culture but are cheap

6. An expresso machine ? Are you kidding me ? Shoot yourself before you spend money on an expresso machine. Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.

7. No offices. Open offices keeps everyone in tune with what is going on and keeps the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show them how to use the lock on the john. There is nothing private in a start up. This is also a good way to keep from hiring execs who can not operate successfully in a startup. My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over their secretary, run away. If an exec wont go on salescalls, run away. They are empire builders and will pollute your company.

8. As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the cheapest way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista… ask yourself why, then use it. Its a startup, there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.

9. Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a startup, you will fail. Once you get beyond startup, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.

10. NEVER EVER EVER buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, its ok to buy for your own folks, but if you really think someone is going to wear your Yobaby.com polo you sent them in public, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money

11. NEVER EVER EVER hire a PR firm. A PR firm will call or email people in the publications, shows and websites you already watch, listen to and read. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them an email introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communications with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.

12. Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out 100 dollar bills to salespeople. At Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or 10 for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party :0

These are all off the top of my head. But they have worked for me so far. Source

How a New CEO Re-energized Intuit

11/10/2003
Steve Bennett took over Intuit in 2000, quickly diagnosing an underperforming company. This excerpt from the new book Inside Intuit shows how the GE veteran took command.

After the analyst meeting, Bennett reflected, “When I came in and said the company was underperforming, employees thought I was on drugs, everybody in that room—you could tell from the faces. But I knew people could perform. After that, we set very aggressive goals.” His listening period over, Bennett moved to combine the best of what he had learned at GE with the values that defined Intuit.

During Bennett’s twenty-three years at GE, he had embraced many of Jack Welch’s imperatives. Those that he had internalized included set a tone (leader’s personal intensity determines organization’s intensity), maximize an organization’s intellect (take everyone’s best ideas and transfer them to others), put people first and strategy second (getting the right people in the right jobs is crucial to the success of any strategy), foster passion (all winners share this characteristic; they care more than anyone else. No detail is too small to sweat or too large to dream), and reach for more than what seems possible (when the leader stretches, the whole organization does). Over the next months, Bennett exemplified these values to Intuit.

The continued presence and support of Scott Cook and Bill Campbell made Bennett’s job easier. Together, Cook, Campbell, and Bennett fell into a complementary work style that enabled each man to contribute his best to Intuit. Meeting, at a minimum, every two weeks in the hours before Bennett’s Monday morning staff meeting, Cook, Campbell, and Bennett worked together to ensure Intuit’s best direction. Both Cook and Campbell kept onsite offices at Intuit. Cook contributed vision, and worked with specific product groups on product innovation and strategy, while Campbell added operational experience, exceptional people skills, and his broad perspectives to the company’s function. As CEO, Bennett led, but all three worked together to help facilitate change.

Leaders are paid to make decisions. Everybody gets a voice, but leaders make the decisions.
— Steve Bennett

Bennett had reviewed the company’s Operating Values. After pondering each value’s relevance, he suggested only one change: Instead of “Think fast, move fast,” Bennett preferred “Think smart, move fast.” Cook and Campbell agreed to the change, and announced it to employees. Thereafter, Bennett embraced Intuit’s values and worked to ensure the company walked its talk.

Bennett met with Intuit customers and the company’s front-line customer representatives as well as with his sixteen direct reports and other senior managers. He took the company’s temperature while communicating his increased performance expectations. “I learned from Jack [Welch] to manage top-down and go to the customer at the same time. He’d drive top-down via expectations, process, and strategy and he’d also find out what customers want.” His method allowed him to avoid the woolliness that can pervade a large organization. “The layers in an organization are like sweaters,” he explained. “If you have seven sweaters on you don’t know the real temperature.”

Believing the company lacked functional depth, Bennett also worked with Cook and Campbell to recruit senior executives to Intuit. Bennett hired Denms Adsit, a process excellence expert, from Rath & Strong Management Consultants in Boston to instill operational rigor, and he added Sherry Whiteley from Silicon Graphics in Mountain View to improve the company’s human resources. He hired Bill Ihrie as chief technical officer from ADP of Roseland, New Jersey, and Tom Allanson from GE as VP of tax strategy. Bennett also added Dan Manack, who ran the professional accountants group. Later, in 2001, he recruited Lorrie Norrington from GE as senior VP of small business. These new recruits delighted Cook, who had wanted to improve Intuit’s senior-level staffing.

Bennett also created a plan to develop and train Intuit’s management staff. He authored a course on leadership that outlined the expectations of leaders at Intuit. “Leaders are paid to make decisions. Everybody gets a voice, but leaders make the decisions. That’s what they’re evaluated on.” Bennett trained senior managers to deliver the class to employees in their groups, instilling a greater sense of responsibility in the company’s managers. The training swept away the slow collaborative decision-making process that had both characterized and paralyzed Intuit. Developing new and stronger leaders across the company also enabled Intuit to tackle and achieve more of its initiatives.

Next Bennett began to reapply rigor to processes and innovation at Intuit. He told employees, “At Intuit we need to put process and culture together to deliver results. As you get bigger and more complex, process and scalability become more important. Bringing some of the big company process to small company customer innovation is our biggest challenge. Innovation isn’t just ideas, because ideas without operational rigor just fall apart .” This language delighted Cook. He knew that deep, one-on-one listening drove insight into customers’ needs. This insight, coupled with consistent business rigor—data-driven decision making, appropriate metrics, and process improvement—had laid the foundation for the company.

Following this rhetoric, Bennett began applying rigor throughout the budgeting and performance evaluation process. In April 2000, as he met with every functional leader in the company to hear their budget projections, he made his increased expectations known by asking carefully targeted questions. “Asking good questions is a part of strategic rigor,” he said. “One of the most powerful tools leaders have is the questions they ask.”

As functional leaders presented their budgets to him, some managers were not able to answer these queries, including questions about exactly what they had spent money on the previous year. So Bennett made everyone restart the budgeting process from an initial budget of zero. “You can’t,” he told them, “increment off bad foundations.” He knew the managers could not improve performance without a fundamental understanding of how they had previously fared—and why.

One of those who faced Bennett’s grilling was Steve Grey, general manager for online services. Grey recalled:

When Steve [Bennett] came he started an annual fiscal year planning process with three year planning and financials. At one meeting, some managers presented a forecast for increasing page views. He said, “Let me understand something: If you get more page views do you get more revenues?” Not exactly. “So what drives revenues?” Page views times advertising cost per thousand views times pages sold. “So if page views go down you can still get more revenues.” Yes. “So, what are the key drivers? What are the things that will make you better or worse, the few things that make the most difference?”

Steve taught us you can have hundreds of measures but if you’re not measuring the right things or if they’re too hard to measure you can really mess up. His approach is methodical, straightforward—but revolutionary.

Coupled with this new accountability in budgeting, Bennett worked to overhaul Intuit’s performance evaluation system. Instead of a fairly egalitarian rating system, where most people received the same rating and similar salary increases, Bennett asked managers to create clear and measurable objectives with their direct reports and then evaluate systematically against these measurements. More employees began to receive lesser ratings, and salary adjustments for the highest-rated employees far outstripped those for average performers. This more critical evaluation system shocked Intuit’s camaraderie-driven groups but rewarded the measurable achievements Bennett thought critical. Employee surveys later revealed that the camaraderie had masked hunger for individual recognition.

Bennett made everyone restart the budgeting process from an initial budget of zero.

By now, employees could identify a key element of Bennett’s managerial approach: focusing on the critical few. Throughout Intuit, Bennett exhorted managers to ruthlessly prioritize their time and attention around the critical few issues that most affected their areas of responsibility. Bennett strongly encouraged the Intuit leaders to identify their critical few drivers and set up consistent, accurate measurements to track them. This relentless narrowing in on those business levers that could most shape success for each manager helped to eliminate the “management by committee” approach that had dogged Intuit decision making.

Focusing on the key drivers, measuring the critical few, asking the right questions, and rewarding top performers were some of the new mantras that Bennett brought to Intuit. New senior VP Dennis Adsit recalled: “Steve brought a new focus to Intuit on accountability of performance. We’ve seen a big change in the managers. Some didn’t like the focus—it was too intense and they couldn’t answer the questions. On the other hand, some said, `Oh my God, I’m finally getting a chance to answer these questions with upper management in the room!’ The real leaders are stepping up, getting a chance to show us how good they are. When we create this kind of forum for talking about results and improvements, things get better.”

Source Harvard Business School Press

BANGALORE, India (AFP) — An Indian rocket launched a record 10 satellites into orbit in a single mission Monday, underlining the nation’s emergence as a major competitor in the multi-billion-dollar space market.

Cartosat-2A, the main satellite launched Monday to an altitude of 630 kilometres (391 miles) above earth, also has a domestic economic dimension and can be used for intelligence gathering as well, officials say.

After a gap of 100 seconds, all the babies on board were sequentially dropped off one by one, with a gap of 20 seconds each with the mission ending almost 20 minutes after lift-off.

The launch vehicle took off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh and has launched 10 satellites – a feat which has created a world record.

The high-resolution mapping satellite CARTOSAT 2-A, which, while placed at a height of over 600 kilometres, can identify objects as small as a car.

Source: NDTV, AFP

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Shai Agassi [above pic]

What can be made free? A better question is what can’t be? My friend Shai Agassi, who until recently ran technology at SAP, got a load of press this week about his new venture, which aims to create the largest electric car company in the world. Details won’t be announced until December, but the basic concept is that you’ll pay for the electricity, not the car. Think razors and blades, or companies giving away free cellphones to lock you into a monthly contract of minutes.

He’s got a blog, cheekily called The Long Tailpipe, and here’s one mind-blowing fact from his most recent post on the effect of current oil prices:

The cost of the average used car in Europe is now cheaper than the cost of gasoline to drive it for a year.

That’s why “free” cars make sense: because the purchase price is now a small fraction of their lifetime costs. Shai’s company is taking a bigger view of the business they’re in–rather than selling cars, they’re selling personal transportation, and charging a rate proportional to use. When fuel seemed nearly free compared to price of the car, companies sold cars. Now cars seem nearly free compared to the cost of the fuel. Thus an opportunity for a car company that thinks different.

(Picture taken by me on a tour Shai and I [Chris Anderson] took earlier this year of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District electricity control center, part of our ongoing effort to understand the economics of electricity better.)

Above Article is from the author, Chris Anderson, of famous Book The Long Tail.

Why Electric?. The following pic will depict better.

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[Click on the image for better view]

Source

Three Deutsche Bank analysts took a hard look at Project Better Place’s business plan for an electric-car recharging grid in Israel and Denmark, and they drew this unexpected conclusion:

The electric car scheme is viable in America, too. The assumption that it would make a cost-effective investment only in tiny nations with sky-high taxes and outrageous prices at the pump is dead wrong. Continue [Source]

Here are the Top 10 Basic Principles that every aspiring entrepreneur should know.

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SUNNYVALE, Calif., Mar 24, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO), a leading global Internet company, and Computational Research Laboratories (CRL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited, today announced an agreement to jointly support cloud computing research. As part of the agreement, CRL will make available to researchers one of the world’s top five supercomputers that has substantially more processors than any supercomputer currently available for cloud computing research.

This effort is the first of its kind in terms of the size and scale of the machine, and the first in making available a supercomputer to academic institutions in India. The Yahoo!/CRL effort is intended to leverage CRL’s expertise in high performance computing and Yahoo!’s technical leadership in Apache Hadoop, an open source distributed computing project of the Apache Software Foundation, to enable scientists to perform data-intensive computing research on a 14,400 processor supercomputer.

Called the EKA, CRL’s supercomputer is ranked the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world – it has 14,400 processors, 28 terabytes of memory, 140 terabytes of disks, a peak performance of 180 trillion calculations per second (180 teraflops), and sustained computation capacity of 120 teraflops for the LINPACK benchmark. Of the top ten supercomputers in the world, EKA is the only supercomputer funded by the private sector and is available for use on commercial terms. EKA is expected to run the latest version of Hadoop and other state-of-the-art, Yahoo!-supported, open-source distributed computing software such as the Pig parallel programming language developed by Yahoo! Research.

“The Tata group has always contributed to scientific research in India, and the EKA will strengthen this cause further in the field of cloud computing. This partnership brings together Yahoo!’s leadership role in the development of Hadoop and CRL’s expertise in high performance computing, and will help bridge the gap between traditional supercomputing and cloud computing research in India,” said S. Ramadorai, chairman of CRL.

“We are excited to partner with Yahoo! to advance cloud computing research in India as it opens up a new arena of exciting opportunities,” said Dr. Gautam Shroff, member of the steering committee of CRL. “We are initiating dialogue with leading Indian academic institutions to collaborate on research using cloud computing.”

This Yahoo!/CRL announcement comes on the eve of the first ever Hadoop Summit. Sponsored by Yahoo! and the Computing Community Consortium (CCC), which is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Hadoop Summit brings together leaders from the Hadoop developer and user communities to discuss current projects and future directions of this cloud computing environment. Concurrently, the first Data-Intensive Computing Symposium, also sponsored by CCC and Yahoo!, gathers on Yahoo!’s campus leading industry and academic experts from all aspects of data-intensive computing. The symposium is part of a larger effort to explore opportunities for research and application of large-scale computing to benefit applications ranging from machine translation to genomic medicine.

“We have made our leadership in supporting academic, cloud computing research very concrete by sharing a 4,000-processor supercomputer with computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University for the last three months. With this supercomputing cluster, researchers were able to analyze hundreds of millions of Web documents and handle two orders of magnitude more data than they previous could,” said Ron Brachman, vice president and head of academic relations for Yahoo!. “Launching our cloud computing program internationally with CRL is another significant milestone in creating a global, collaborative research community working to advance the new sciences of the Internet.”

About Yahoo!

Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet brand and one of the most trafficked Internet destinations worldwide. Yahoo! is focused on powering its communities of users, advertisers, publishers, and developers by creating indispensable experiences built on trust. Yahoo! is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. For more information, visit pressroom.yahoo.com or the company’s blog, Yodel Anecdotal.

About Computational Research Laboratories

Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited and is engaged in cutting edge research and development in the area of high performance computing. CRL’s mission is to be among the top research, technology, and business leaders in the world, in high performance computing systems, software, applications, and services. CRL is headquartered in Pune, India. For more information, visit crlindia.com.

Yahoo! and the Yahoo! logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Yahoo! Inc.

All other names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

SOURCE: Yahoo! Inc.

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Post Author: Ben Yoskovitz his Blog
Here I refers to Author.

I was very glad to see that someone recorded the recent Blitzweekend presentations. Stephane Daury did a great job recording everything, and I’ve enjoyed watching the presentations I didn’t see.

I gave a presentation at Blitzweekend about starting a company. It was a mixture of a few things including:

The presentation is a bit longer than I intended it to be, but I’m pleased with the results. A bit more practice would have helped, and more point form notes instead of what I had written up to use. But I hope people enjoyed the presentation and got something out of it. Anyone?

Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about Standout Jobs, where it came from and some of the lessons learned so far (and you want to see me “in action” – after all, who wouldn’t?!?!) please check out the presentation and let me know what you think.

Pic From

Evan Williams (founder of Twitter) has a fabulous post on how to evaluate new product ideas

 

I’ve been thinking about a number of new product ideas lately. In doing so, I’ve been trying to come up with a way more structured way of evaluating them. Here’s a first attempt at defining that. It’s not as clear as I’d like it to be. But perhaps you’ll find it useful.

Tractability

Question: How difficult will it be to launch a worthwhile version 1.0?Blogger was highly tractable. Twitter was tractable, but sightly less-so because of the SMS component. Google web search had quite low tractability when they launched it. Vista?: About as low as you can get.

Tractability is partially about technical difficulty and much about timing and competition—i.e., How advanced are the other solutions? Building a new blogging tool today is less-tractable, because the bar is higher. Building the very first web search engine was probably pretty easy. Conversely, building the very first airplane was difficult, even though there wasn’t any competition.

In general, if you’re tiny and have few resources, tractability is key, because it means you can build momentum quickly—and momentum is everything for a startup. However, tractability often goes hand and hand with being early in a market, which has its own drawbacks (e.g., obviousness, as we’ll discuss below).

If you’re big and/or have a lot of resources—or not very good at spotting new opportunities, but great at executing—a less-tractable idea may be for you. It may take longer to launch something worthwhile, but once you crack the nut, you have something clearly valuable.

Obviousness

Question: Is it clear why people should use it?Everything is obvious once its successful. Big wins come when you can spot something before its obvious to everyone else. There are several vectors to this: 1) Is it obvious why people should use it? 2) Is it obvious how to use? 3) Is it an obviously good business?

Number two is more affected by the design of the product than the idea itself. You don’t actually want number three to be true. You want it to be a good business, but not an obviously good business, because than you get more competition. Web search was not an obviously good business before Google demonstrated it. This allowed them to leap-frog the competition that was in it for years, but not taking it very seriously. But, like Google, the business may not be clear until later.

The key question for evaluating an idea is number one: Is it obvious why people should use it? In most cases, obviousness in this regard is inversely proportional to tractability. The cost of Blogger and Twitter’s high tractability was the fact that they were defining a new type of behavior. The number one response to Twitter, still, is Why would anyone do that? Once people try it, they tend to like it. But communicating its benefits is difficult. We’re heartened by the fact that Why would anyone do that? was the default response by the mainstream to blogging for years, as well, and eventually tens of millions of people came around.

On the flip side, if you can build an ad network that makes people more money, a better search engine, or a productivity app that actually does tasks for people—all, less-tractable solutions—it will be highly obvious to people why to use your product.

Sometimes you can come up with ideas that are highly tractable and obvious. For example: Top Friends or HotOrNot. These products were not hard to launch and yet, were immediately appealing (to their target market). What was not obvious, in either case, is that they could also be great businesses. HotOrNot has proven this to be true. And I suspect Slide will, as well.

Deepness

Question: How much value can you ultimately deliver?The most successful products give benefits quickly (both in the life of a product and a user’s relationship with it), but also lend themselves to continual development of and discovery of additional layers of benefit later on.

Facebook is incredibly deep because it leverages your connections, which touch practically every aspect of your life. Scrabulous, on the other hand—a Facebook app for playing Scrabble—is not very deep. How big is the Scrabble-playing part of your life, and how much can it deliver beyond that?

But most things are deeper than they seem at first glance. Practically any application, once people start using it, can be used as a lever to more activity and benefit delivery. Being smart about what you’re leveraging is key.

When Feedburner first launched, their only feature was the ability to take an RSS feed and spit out multiple versions, depending on the capabilities of the feed reader requesting it. It seemed useful, but hardly something to start a company around, especially because that particular problem would probably go away over time. Or so I thought. What I didn’t get and they did (because Dick and gang is smarter than me) is that they were setting themselves up at a great leverage point—between publishers and their readers—where they could offer an ever-deeper value stack. Soon it was feed stylesheets with one-button subscription, feed stats, feed flare, blog stats, email subscriptions, and, of course, advertising, where they made their money.

While we’re talking about Feedburner, its worth mentioning that their product was also very obvious for their core user-base. There were clear benefits and very little drawbacks. They also had no competition, even though there were tons of companies in the RSS/feed space, because most of the others were battling it out on the reader side.

Other times, you stumble into deepness. When they put up HotOrNot on a whim, Jim and James didn’t know they’d be able to leverage it into a highly profitable dating site. Okay, so HotOrNot’s still not the “deepest” of sites, but it’s deeper than you think.

Wideness

Question: How many people may ultimately use it?Wideness, like deepness, is a fairly classic market analysis measure. They are usually inversely proportional—do you try to offer the mass-market good or the niche one?

Feedburner is not particularly wide. Their market was those who published RSS feeds (and cared about them). This was in the hundreds of thousands, not a hundred million. Turns out, it didn’t need to be used by a hundred million to be worth a hundred million, so going for wideness is not entirely necessary. But it’s something to look at.

Like deepness, wideness can take you by surprise. The web is getting so damn big, what seem like niche ideas can be very decent businesses. When Ted Rheingold launched Dogster, as a joke, he didn’t know there were enough people out there who would be interested in making their dogs web pages to actually build a business. When we launched Blogger, I thought maybe a few thousand people would use it.

Sometimes, you can find a spot that is both deep and wide. This is where multi-billion-dollar businesses are built: Google, Windows, Ebay. It’s easy to think these kinds of opportunities aren’t laying around anymore—at least not for the little guy. But most people would have said the same before Facebook entered the picture.

Discoverability

Question: How will people learn about your product?I was going to call this criteria “viralness.” However, there’s a lot of focus on viralness these days, and—while sometimes amazingly effective—it’s not the only way to grow a user-base. And it doesn’t make sense in all cases.

Interesting to note: Google web search is not the least bit viral. Nor is Firefox. Nor it Kayak.

It’s possible to get the word out without being “viral.” One way is organic search traffic. Another is pay-per-click ads (if you can monetize). Another is plain old-fashioned word-of-mouth/blog/press. (Twitter has probably grown more through press and blogs references than any inherent viralness.) There’s also distribution deals and partnerships.

Either way, it’s something to think about up front, as different ideas lend themselves to different discoverability strategies. And some things are more difficult than others to spread. Dating sites, for instance, have not historically been viral, because people weren’t going to invite their friends to—or even talk much about—their personal ads. The sites made up for this by buying lots of ads, which worked because they monetized signups via subscription.

Monetizability

Question: How hard will it be to extract the money?Far be it for me to say that obvious monetizability is a requirement. I’m generally a believer that if you create value, you can figure out the business. However, all things being equal, an idea with clear buck-making potential is better than one without.

Whether or not something is monetizable is not always clear up-front. It wasn’t clear how Google was going to make money early on. Ebay thought it would sell auction software.

In most cases, if you position yourself close to the spending of money, you can extract some. Or if you offer something that clearly saves or makes people money.

Blogger, I believe, makes money for Google, but it’s not the most monetizable of products. Twitter, I believe, will be more-so, but that’s yet to be seen.

Personally Compelling

Question: Do you really want it to exist in the world?Last on the list, but probably the first question I ask myself is: How important to me is it that this product exists in the world? If I were evaluating a startup, I’d ask this of the founders. As I wrote in “Ten Rules“:

Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world. Be a user of your own product. Hire people who are users of your product. Make it better based on your own desires.

In theory, you can get around this with lots of user research. (It’s pretty clear neither Slide nor Rockyou‘s founders are creating widgets based on their own needs and desires.) But you’re more likely to get it wrong that way. When I’ve gone sideways, it’s when I wasn’t listening to my gut on this issue. Specifically, Blogger and Twitter were personally compelling, while Odeo wasn’t.

However, “personally compelling” doesn’t have to mean only that you want it as a user yourself. Curing cancer or helping the world be more green may be highly personally compelling for other reasons, which I think is just as good. My favorite products are those I really want as a user, but that I also think have some “greater good.”

Charting it Out

To bring it home, here’s a table with my estimates on where different products land by these criteria. Obviously, these are subjective measures, and for some of them, it’s hard to judge in retrospect. (I didn’t inlclude Personally Compelling on the list, because I can’t really speak to the founder’s motivations in most cases.)
Product Tractability Obviousness Deepness Wideness Discoverability Monetizability
Blogger Very High Low High High High Low
Google (web search) Very Low Very High Very High Very High Low Very High
Facebook High1 High Very High High Very High High2
Twitter High Low High High High Med
Feedburner Med High High Med Med Med3
HotOrNot Very High Very High Med Med Med High4
Scrabulous High Very High Low Low Very High Low
Ebay Med High Very High Very High High

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