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Archive for the ‘Hi-Tech Startup’s’ Category

There are a lot of Web 2.0 companies out there. If you don’t believe me, check out Web 2.0’s archive. For every Digg or Twitter there are dozens of sites that provide great services that flame out. Unfortunately, the fault does not lie in fickle consumers or bad luck — it falls directly on your shoulders.

Luckily, most of the worst startup mistakes are things that you can change. What better time than the beginning of the week to take a look at some of them?.

Obviously, The Product Will Sell Itself

Used Car

This is the problem faced by entrepreneurs who start off as pure developers. The idea seems pretty well founded. If you have a great product, people will flock to it. This could not be any more wrong. If Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it is that there are a ton of extremely talented developers out there and many of them have made amazing products. Yet, somehow, there is only one YouTube and Facebook.

What is the difference between a well developed product and a great product? Implementation, of course. Truly great entrepreneurs are able to separate themselves from their products and realize the one real truth of business, “no one cares.” After you have your product put together it is time to get it through your head that your only job now is to cut through the public’s inertia and make them see how important your service is to their lives. Market, market, market. Get yourself out there and scream your unique value proposition from the rooftops.

If you can’t give someone a general idea of why your product is great in one sentence or less, then it isn’t.


People Care About Features!

Confusion

People could care less about your tag clouds and OpenID support. In general, people really only concern themselves with one portion of a product. Most people use YouTube to watch funny videos. Most people use Flickr to show off their great photos. Each of these products has a metric ton of additional features that power users really get behind but the public at large is completely unaware of.

Make sure that your most important features are impossible to miss. Let your users see up front why this product is a handy addition to their lives. Once they are hooked they will look around and see all the other great stuff you have put in. You must understand the difference between product adoption and user retention. Features retain users, they very rarely get them.


What Do You Mean We Don’t Need A Private Jet?

747

No, I am not going to let the CFOs off the hook. Too many young startups, newly flush with venture funding, forget that business finance is a lot like personal finance, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Remember when you were bootstrapping and you bought all those Dell PCs wholesale for $300 a pop? Why does it seem prudent, now that you have a little capital to burn that you should need $2,000 Mac Book Pros for every employee, even the ones who need computers for little more than Excel and email?

Unless you are turning a profit, most of your money should go towards development and marketing. I am not saying that you should work out of a closet, but wait until you have revenue before you spring for that 5th Avenue suite. Also remember, there are free or cheap solutions for almost all corporate infrastructure problems. You can pick up computers, furniture, and telecommunications services at cut rates if you know how to look. The only thing that you should feel free to splurge on are servers and maybe enough amenities to keep your employees content.


No One Told Us People Would Actually Use This Thing

Dell

Speaking of servers. The next most important thing to remember is that you should have a plan in place to double your infrastructure at very short notice. It is entirely possible that your user base could go from 5,000 people to 50,000 people in a month. If you haven’t prepared for this, it won’t be long before your user base, annoyed at network failures and slow downs jumps ship and moves on to greener pastures.

This is one of those times a little forward planning can really be a life saver. Have a plan written up to tell you what type of infrastructure you would need to handle each new flood of users. Make certain that your vendors know that your equipment needs are in flux and be certain that you are ready to scale up well before the server room bursts into flames.


Early Adopters Aren’t Real People

Replicants

I know I didn’t use a clever turn of phrase for this one, but I think it’s too important for that. What you need to understand, right now if you have not already, is that early adopters are not real people. The geeks, techies, friends and family that initially use your product are not representative of the public at large. Their opinions on your product are not representative of what the mainstream will think.

If your web service is designed to scale, be certain that your marketing machine is not only targeting the digerati. Start getting the word out through newspapers, magazines and publications in your broader field of interest. If you are making an online video recommendation service, don’t only pray to the altar of TechCrunch but also get the word out amongst movie lovers. Make certain that the same people who use Netflix can easily get their head around your product. Understand that, in general, normal people are looking for something that makes their lives easier. They don’t understand Web 2.0 and social media collaboration. In this case, sell the steak not the sizzle.


Huh, What’s Gmail?

Boxing

This should have been point number one. Products can be destroyed before they even begin if you don’t do the research. Take a look around the net and make certain that you don’t have another huge player operating in the space that you want to move into. If it turns out that there is, make sure that you can clearly define how your product is different than their offering.

Also, research how services similar to yours have succeeded or failed. Some of the best advice you can get will come from the horror stories of you competition. An ounce of preparation is worth a gallon of regret.


Web 2.0 Roundup

There are a thousand mistakes big and small that can sink your startup, and the ones that I described are only a tiny subset of them. However, I daresay that these are the most important. Remember, that a web business is still a business and knowledge is your best weapon.

Original Post

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Loic LeMeur

It’s not often you are presented with a vision of the future of online video in a pub in London.

But that’s exactly what I was shown last night by celebrated French blogger, well-connected entrepreneur and Seesmic founder Loic LeMeur.

He believes that the future of online video is not YouTube or even live video, he thinks it is video conversations among a community.

Within minutes of posting the video to Seesmic, he had replies from the community all around the world, including from members sat around the corner in the same bar.

“YouTube is not a conversation,” explained LeMeur. “As one Seesmic-er said to me, ‘YouTube is about the videos, Seesmic is about the people in the videos’.”

Users can record videos via webcams and upload directly to Seesmic, or record using YouTube and post from that site.

The company is also working on a mobile phone version of Seesmic.

He says Seesmic is more intimate because video allows users to see each other for who they are.

Users reply to each others’ replies, creating an almost infinite threaded conversation around different topics.

Source: BBC News

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Roelof Botha played an integral part in the building of two of the most successful Internet companies of all time: YouTube and PayPal. The 33-year-old venture capitalist made a fast fortune for Sequoia Capital on Google’s $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube; eBay bought PayPal, where Botha was chief financial officer, for $1.5 billion in 2002. Newer investments include AdBrite, Insider Pages, Meebo, Xoom and Zappos.

Botha has learned a few tricks to boost consumer adoption–all without spending gobs on advertising. A sampling:

Get Viral

Many people think the word “viral” is interchangeable with “word of mouth”–implying that the product or service is so good that people are compelled to talk it up with their friends. But there’s more to it than that. Google (nasdaq: GOOG news people ) and Amazon.com (nasdaq: AMZN news people ) are both great Internet companies, but they aren’t viral businesses.

“Word of mouth is when I tell you to shop on Zappos because I think the service is great,” explains Botha. “It becomes viral when you have to be ‘in the system’ to use it. For example I can post a video on YouTube but then you would need to go to the site in order to see it.”

A truly viral business is “like a disease,” says Botha. “It needs to be transmitted from one person to another”–and the other person has to catch it. Once the next person catches it, he or she becomes a carrier too. Here are some good examples:

PayPal. If Bob sends Mary $25, Mary has to join PayPal in order to claim her money.

Evite. John e-mails you an invitation to his bachelor party but in order to read the details such as when and where, and to RSVP, you have to log onto Evite. E-card vendors work the same way.

Plaxo. A friend or business associate sends you an e-mail asking you to update your contact information. Once you log onto Plaxo to correct your phone number, you’ve caught the virus. Other services such as Birthday Alarm use the same strategy.

Skype. In the beginning, the only way you could make a free phone call over Skype’s Internet voice service was if the person you were calling was also a Skype member.

Like Botha, the founders of YouTube are alumni of PayPal. When they started YouTube they knew they wanted to replicate the same viral e-mail strategy to attract new viewers. That’s why the founding engineers designed all YouTube links to be super short–never longer than one line. The logic: When you e-mail grandma to show off clips of your baby’s first steps, long links tend to wrap around and get cut off. Broken links are a sure-fire way to frustrate potential customers and keep them from coming to your Web site.

“E-mail was the primary way YouTube grew its user base,” says Botha. “People would find interesting videos on the site, then copy and paste links in e-mails to their friends.”

Forget about adding “viral” to your marketing to-do list after your product is already on the market. You need to bake it into your business model from the very beginning. “Viral isn’t something you can just make happen,” says Botha. “It has to be inherent in your product.”

Article Credit: Erika Brown is with the Silicon Valley Bureau, Forbes. You can read the rest of this article Here.

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Google’s distributed storage architecture for data is combined with distributed execution of the software that parses and analyzes it.

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To keep software developers from spending too much time on the arcana of distributed programming, Google invented MapReduce as a way of simplifying the process.

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MapReduce takes programming instructions and assigns them to be executed in parallel on many computers. It breaks calculations into two parts—a first stage, which produces a set of intermediate results, and a second, which computes a final answer.

The concept comes from functional programming languages such as Lisp (Google’s version is implemented in C++, with interfaces to Java and Python).

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One example, from a Google developer presentation, shows how the phrase “to be or not to be” would move through this process.

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MapReduce includes its own middleware—server software that automatically breaks computing jobs apart and puts them back together. This is similar to the way a Java programmer relies on the Java Virtual Machine to handle memory management, in contrast with languages like C++ that make the programmer responsible for manually allocating and releasing computer memory. In the case of MapReduce, the programmer is freed from defining how a computation will be divided among the servers in a Google cluster. More

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Related Stuffs

 

What Other CIOs Can Learn from Google

Google’s Beginnings

Why Parallel Processing Makes Sense

Behind The Google File System

How Google Reduces Complexity

Google’s Secret Arsenal

Would Google’s File System Work for You?

Inside Google’s Enterprise

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YouTube grew incredibly fast, to over 100 million video views per day, with only a handful of people responsible for scaling the site. How did they manage to deliver all that video to all those users? And how have they evolved since being acquired by Google?.

Platform:

* Apache
* Python
* Linux (SuSe)
* MySQL
* psyco, a dynamic python->C compiler
* lighttpd for video instead of Apache

What’s Inside the Company ?
The Stats 

* Supports the delivery of over 100 million videos per day.
* Founded 2/2005
* 3/2006 30 million video views/day
* 7/2006 100 million video views/day
* 2 sysadmins, 2 scalability software architects
* 2 feature developers, 2 network engineers, 1 DBA

Recipe for handling rapid growth

while (true)
{
identify_and_fix_bottlenecks();
drink();
sleep();
notice_new_bottleneck();
}

This loop runs many times a day.

Web server

* NetScalar is used for load balancing and caching static content.
* Run Apache with mod_fast_cgi.

* The Python web code is usually NOT the bottleneck, it spends most of its time blocked on RPCs.
* Python allows rapid flexible development and deployment . This is critical given the competition they face.

Lesson’s Learned

* Creative and risky tricks can help you cope in the short term while you work out longer term solutions.

* Know what’s essential to your service and prioritize your resources and efforts around those priorities.

* Pick your battles. Don’t be afraid to outsource some essential services. YouTube uses a CDN to distribute their most popular content. Creating their own network would have taken too long and cost too much. You may have similar opportunities in your system. Take a look at Software as a Service for more ideas.

* Keep it simple! Simplicity allows you to rearchitect more quickly so you can respond to problems.

* Sharding helps to isolate and constrain storage, CPU, memory, and IO. It’s not just about getting more writes performance.

* Constant iteration on bottlenecks:
– Software: DB, caching
– OS: disk I/O
– Hardware: memory, RAID

* Have a good cross discipline team that understands the whole system and what’s underneath the system. People who can set up printers, machines, install networks, and so on. With a good team all things are possible.

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I Stumble upon a nice Case Study of Skype by Equity Finger Prints which is worth to go through the presentation that shows from Idea to Lucrative exist with some math calculations & How much VC took lucre from that buy out. Go ahead….

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Wiki on Google

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said on Friday he is putting the building blocks in place for a community-developed Web search service that would rival search engines such as Google or Yahoo.

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His commercial start-up, Wikia, has acquired Grub, a pioneering Web crawler that will enable Wikia’s forthcoming search service to scour the Web to index relevant sites.

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“If we can get good quality search results, I think it will really change the balance of power from the search companies back to the publishers,” said Wales, chairman of San Mateo, California-based Wikia. “I could be wrong about this, but it seems like a likely outcome.”

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Wikia has acquired Grub from LookSmart Ltd., which had halted work on the project.

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Terms of the deal between Wikia  and LookSmart  were not disclosed.

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Wikia has raised $14 million in outside financing, including its latest round of $10 million from Amazon.com, according to a regulatory filing by the company.

[source]

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