Thursday, July 16, 2009


I don't know about you, but it takes a lot these days for me to really be impressed by a new idea on the Web. So when I came across Groupon (via an ad on Facebook if you can believe it!) and saw what it was all about, I immediately became a fan -- and I'm pretty sure most of you who end up checking it out will feel the same way.

So why the corny title to explain what Groupon you ask? Good question for sure - - - it's partly because I'm cranking this blog post out at 3:3o in the f***in' morning (don't ask!), but really more so because it's the only way I could think of to capture the essence of what Groupon is all about in one sentence.

In a nutshell, Groupon is an online service that offers users a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and (most importantly for their business) buy in a handful (14 to be exact) of major U.S. of cities. The geo-specific aspect of their site reminds me of products like DailyCandy or UrbanDaddy - hip and relevant insight into the cool stuff in your city. But unlike these informational-based businesses, Groupon goes a step further by offering users the ability to take advantage of limited time deals (called "flash sales" by the likes of HauteLook and others) being offered by various local vendors. And here's the interesting twist -- users can buy into these limited time offers but their order will only go through once enough other users have also bought the same offer within a certain pre-determined time period (usually 24 hours) -- hence the "Tipping Point" reference.

Take me for example -- in the last week I've already pulled the trigger on two Groupon offers - two one-hour massages at a local holistic spa for my wife for $54 (a 50% savings); and four 90 minute sessions -- which includes a 30-minute golf lesson and 1 hour use of the indoor golf course simulator -- at a place called Players Club Golf in Santa Monica for $30 each (a $320 value). In fact I'm looking at an offer now from Reeder's Barbershop - $20 for a $50 MVP haircut, which includes a haircut, head massage, hand massage, hot towel, nape shave, free beer or soda, your own private flat screen with DirecTV access and, oh yeah, your "barber" is actually an young, attractive woman. The only downside to this offer is that it's limited to 1 per customer - but technically you can buy 4 more as gifts for friends. SEE BELOW to find out how you can win a free haircut!!

I encourage all of you to give Groupon a try - and I'd be surprised if you weren't hooked on it within days like I am! If you do check it out, definitely post comments below letting us know what you think.

P.S. -- I have 2 Groupons for the barbershop offer to give away -- first two L.A. based guys (sorry ladies!) to correctly list the current CEO's of HauteLook and UrbanDaddy in the comments section below will win - good luck!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


It's always exciting to see industry friends/colleagues reach the impressive milestone of product launch, and it's even more exciting when the product is something that actually has some legitimate potential. Such is the case with Tunezee, a music search and discovery engine co-founded by Ogi Todic, who I've had the pleasure of knowing for a few years now. I recently had the chance to touch base with Ogi and get some more details about Tunezee's current business as well as their future plans.

Q: In a nutshell, what is Tunezee?

Have you ever remembered a few lines from a song, but have no idea who sings it or what the name of the song is? Tunezee allows you to find that song/artist through search using lyrics or other descriptors, confirm the results via our SmartKlip service, browse full lyrics of the song, view videos and purchase music and related merchandise. The SmartKlip service is a short music clip which corresponds to the search phrase. It allows you to hear exactly the part of the song that you've remembered. This will help you find the song you have in mind much faster.

Q: How did the idea for Tunezee come about?

It was a combination of a couple of things. I was working on a project that involved digital audio processing for a video application. In talking to my friend (now co-founder) we thought the technology could power a music search service that would be more powerful than what is currently available on the market. Both of us had been in situations where we knew the line from a song but not who sang the song. We knew how bad the user experience was around music search, so we figured we could make it significantly better.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and the folks behind Tunezee

Tunezee was started by myself and Tony DeFranceschi. Tony has a strong business background; he worked at McKinsey for a number of years where he consulted software, telecom and mobile device clients as well as held operating roles at two startups. I've held different technical roles at a couple of Silicon Valley companies that created some innovative technologies and services. Most recently, I have been running a software consulting business helping various startups as well as the Stanford Technology Ventures Program on building software systems. I'd also like to add that Tunezee would not be what it is without our stellar engineering team.

Q: What is your primary value proposition for both users and content owners (specifically music rights holders)?

We help users quickly find the music they are looking for, connect with music, share their findings with friends and acquire music via their preferred online store. The current user experience is fragmented in that users often have to go to multiple sources/websites to search for music, confirm the results, and then take action (for example, buy music or share findings with friends). We aim to streamline this process and to create a one-stop music search and discovery service.

We help content owners monetize their content more effectively. A user’s attention span is increasingly becoming shorter and shorter. If a user is exposed to a song (radio, concert, party, restaurant), but can’t easily find it and reconnect with it, the likelihood of that song being purchased diminishes significantly. That is why we created a simple and effective music search solution – Tunezee – which will help increase the sales of music and associated merchandise.

Q: What problem or absence in the marketplace does Tunezee solve?

Tunezee provides an effective search and discovery solution in the music space. Our goal is to fill a void in the music search space, which is currently addressed via a combination of standard search engines and cottage industry websites.

Q: How many songs do you currently have in the database, and what does the future growth of this database look like?

We have hundreds of thousands of songs (over a million if you count the same songs on different albums).

As for future plans, our goal is to provide a service where users can quickly find any song for which they are looking. This will require significant growth in the number of songs, as well as song and user metadata, which will enable a better search experience. There is still room to enhance user experience and provide users with the most relevant results when they are searching for music.


Interestingly enough, within a few days of our Q&A session, the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising published a report revealing that longer, higher quality free music samples engage more listeners and reduce the number of free riders. According to, the report concludes that "an effective digital music free sample strategy should involve high-quality, long samples of the music being marketed, the researchers conclude. This makes it more likely that the consumer listening to a sample will buy the full product, whether that's a CD or a track download, rather than being a free-rider."

Data such as this bodes well for Tunezee -- now let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope that the music industry agrees!

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Truth be told I've known about this initiative by Coinstar for a little while now, mainly through following one of the companies (Rixty) listed in the release, so I was thrilled to see this news hit the wires yesterday because it's a great example of a traditional brick-and-mortar based business finding creative ways to get in the new media world game.

The basic premise is that Coinstar is allowing consumers (read: pre-teen and teen gamers with no access to credit cards as a way of paying for their digital entertainment addiction - I mean, hobby) to turn in their coins in exchange for pre-paid spending cards for onling games, virtual worlds and social networks. Some of the other digital entertainment properties attached to this initiative include Aeria, Stardoll, WeeWorld, Adventure Quest Worlds and, perhaps most importantly, Facebook and MySpace. I'm sure that more companies in these spaces will soon follow suit and join the Coinstar consortium -- the question is, can mainstream media companies be far behind? Hulu pre-paid card anyone?!

Just when you thought that Sparkletts water bottle full of coins was never gonna see the light of day!!

Monday, June 01, 2009


In the spirit of covering topics that my readers are interested in, today's blog topic comes from a good friend and former colleague of mine (Ed) who wrote to me recently asking if I could write a "how-to" article of sorts about how to navigate the angel investor waters. In these challenging economic times, coupled with the complex landscape found in the venture and private equity worlds, angel investors occupy a very worthwhile niche within the start-up ecosystem -- typically offering a combination of funding (albeit generally at lower amounts) and hands-on assistance that the majority of bigger money shops can't or don't offer -- although as we've read recently a handful of them are starting to set up "seed bet" funds.

Like many of us, Ed has spent many years in the digital media space and along the way has put together some potentially viable business ideas/plans that he would love nothing more than to incubate them and see if there's any "there" there. The challenge is that Ed, again like many of us, falls outside the traditional demographic of "bootstrap entrepreneurs" - early to mid-20s, living either on campus or at their parents house and funding the development of a business idea through credit cards, family loans, etc.

While many in the investment community would argue that this is the only demographic worth funding, I couldn't disagree more (and yeah - I may be a bit partial since I'm a bit past my 20s!) since those of us who have "been around the block" can and do add tremendous domain expertise and business acumen to a venture. The challenge becomes that those of us who are a bit older actually have lives and obligations -- kids, mortgage, bills, charity work, friends . . . and as such, are not in a position to max out the credit cards to help fund a business idea. But just because you're not willing to take that risk doesn't mean that your idea isn't viable.

In my quest to get some answers and potential clarity, I decided to go directly to the source and pick the brain of a prominent angel investor and industry colleague of mine - Mark Sigal. In addition to being an eight-time entrepreneur (four-times as co-founder) and 'platform guy' with deep domain expertise in digital media, social networking, software as a service, systems management and embedded systems, Mark is an angel investor and also authors an industry blog called The Network Garden.

Mark's advice for folks like Ed who have potentially great ideas and are looking for some help from the angel investor community to help them make those ideas reality:

* Ideas are a dime a dozen, now more so than ever;
* Proof is what you pay for, and proof is achieved one of two ways. First, build something to a base minimal functional state that can show whether "the dogs will eat the dog food." Second, have SERIOUS pedigree such that you can prove that you've been there, done that before;
* If you lack the ability to code, persuade someone to code your idea for equity only in order to achieve that base functional state.

The harsh reality is that there are less active angels right now since everyone's net worth has been whacked 20--50%, meaning that former investment dollars are now going towards personal expenses (read: room and board, lifestyle spend and/or "weather the storm" spend). In the axis between fear and greed, fear (and by extension poverty) still have the upper hand. In Mark's humble opinion, without most or all of these bullet points addressed, then chances are you're shit out of luck save for taking the route of the 20-somethings.

While I'm sure this isn't exactly what Ed may have wanted to hear, it does seem to reflect the current realities that we're facing with the economy. But even in these challenging times, I do think that great ideas that achieve some level of visibility beyond just a Power Point and a corporate summary do get noticed -- after all, weren't we here once already after the bubble of Web 1.0?!

As always, comments are welcome -- ideally here on my blog as opposed to my Facebook page or Twitter feed - but I'll take them anywhere!

And please keep the topic ideas comin'.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Last night the good people over at Dealmaker Media L.A. hosted the latest installment of their strategy & mixer series last night at the William Morris offices in Beverly Hills. The event centered around a panel discussion moderated by Rich Wolpert, Managing Director of The Mailroom Fund discussing the similarities and differences between the start up and investment communities in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. The panel was a good mix of investors (both angel and institutional) and entrepreneurs -- Mike Jones, newly minted COO of MySpace and former CEO of Tsavo Media, Joey Carson, President & CEO of Hollywood Interactive Group, Jason Oberfest, SVP, Business Development at MySpace and Mark Suster, Partner at GRP Partners.

Here are some of my take-aways from the event:

* In general, L.A.-based start ups are more monetization oriented while Silicon Valley start ups tend to place more emphasis on product development and technology.

* Due in part to geographical differences between the two areas, the L.A. start up and venture scene is more disparate and, save for Santa Monica, has no real nerve center (a la Sand Hill Road up north). And as an extension of this reality, there is also a common perception that L.A. does not have the depth and breadth of technology talent that Silicon Valley has, although there are members of the L.A. community (including the L.A. CTO Forum) that are actively working to change this perception.

* Those working in the start up community in Silicon Valley are much more pre-occupied with the equity portion of compensation packages than those in L.A., with one theory being that so many of them know and/or have heard of many others in their position making millions of dollars off of their options - which in turn leads to something along the lines of a sense of entitlement.

The topic of this event was of particular interest to me because I've spent the greater part of the last few months traveling to and from Silicon Valley and L.A. meeting with countless start ups and venture capitalists in both cities - in large part to get a sense of the general business and investment climate in both areas as I try and figure out what I want to do when I grow up. The main difference that I've noticed so far is that Silicon Valley operates in a micro-climate "bubble" environment that almost doesn't care or pay attention to the macro conditions that exist in the world (in this case the horrid economy). Entrepreneurship, progress and innovation are embedded in the fabric of the Valley - and that fabric is extremely strong and resilient.

While that's not to say that some of that doesn't exist here in L.A., the reality is that much of the climate is driven by the entertainment & media industry. And that industry is very much aware of, and adversely impacted by, the current economic conditions, not to mention the ongoing struggles many media companies are still having with figuring out how they are going to thrive in this new digital media ecosystem. And that fear and trepidation can't help but trickle down to the start ups and investors in the area, especially those whose businesses and investments are based in and around content. And from what I've heard from my friends and colleagues on the East Coast, this same dynamic exists between New York and Boston -- so at least we're not alone!

The good news is that L.A., despite its geographical challenges and ties to the entertainment industry tides, has a ton of great people across the business spectrum -- entrepreneurs, technologists, monetization experts and investors, and the sentiment coming out of last night is that the gap between L.A. and Silicon Valley - real or perceived - is closing every day.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


We all know how painful it can be sometimes to try and schedule things with other folks via email - especially those outside your office and/or company for work-related things like meetings, conference calls, lunches, etc. If your experience is anything like mine, it take at least 3-4 back and forth emails to settle on a date and time that works -- and that's just when trying to schedule something with just one other person that's in the same vicinity or time zone. Multiply that by 2 for every additional person involved in the process and you get the picture.

I recently came across a company by the name of TimeBridge that offers a consumer-friendly (and more importantly, free!) meeting schedule product that is entirely web-based and allows you to not only integrate it with office-based calendars like Outlook but, more importantly, with home-based calendars like Google or iCal. There's also a business version, which I assume has some kind of price tag associated with it.

The process is pretty simple -- sign up for an account, create a meeting proposal - which includes selecting/suggesting days and times for the event, send it out to your intended recipients and wait for them to get back to you. Once everyone is on board the invite can be integrated into your calendaring system of choice (assuming it's one of the three mentioned above) and you're all set.

Feel free to send any and all feedback about the product once you've given it a try - I think you'll find it worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I'm sure some of you have already seen this new mobile communication device called The Peek - but for those of you who haven't, let me be the first to give you my two cents about it . . . don't bother.

What is it you ask? Quite simply, it's a portable device that is 100% dedicated to emailing and texting. According to their CEO Amol Sarva, there are a ton of people out there who want a simple to use (it only takes a few minutes to set up) and affordable ($49.95 for the device and $19.95 a month with no contracts) device that allows them to stay in touch on the go - but without having the ability to actually call and talk to people.

Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty slick looking device - and I'm sure that there will be folks out there for whom this is a perfect fit. But I personally think that there are a number of factors working against it, including:

1. Device Fatigue -- as we continue to be bombarded with more and more choices when it comes to portable devices (cell phones, smart phones, digital cameras, laptops, netbooks, etc.), at the end of the day most people want to simplify their lives and pare down on the number of devices (and power cords) they use and have with them at all times. And more likely than not, these same people will be willing to pay a premium for the convenience of less devices.

2. Email Is Becoming Less and Less Relevant -- we can't deny that we're in an age of immediacy that is being driven, in large part, by the continuing proliferation and use of telephony and texting functions associated with pretty much all cell phones these days - not to mention the meteoric rise of social communication tools like Twitter and Facebook. As a result, email is being used more and more as a third or fourth option when it comes to communication. So when faced with the choice of having a device that allows you to talk and text (in addition to a handful of other bells and whistles), or one that lets you just text and email, chances are you'll choose the former.

3. Price -- while 20 bucks a month is definitely a good deal, the reality is that most people are still willing to pay a bit more for a portable device that fits the criteria mentioned in #2, in addition to having other utilitarian features such as a camera and Internet access (through which, by the way, you can also access and use email). And it's safe to assume that pricing on mobile phone services from the carriers will only continue to go down.

Long story short -- extremely slick looking device with a price point and service that may appeal to an extremely small group of consumers, but at the end of the day, less is more when it comes to devices.

Friday, April 10, 2009


For better or worse, I've been a loyal user of Yahoo! for a lot of my basic web services - email, photos (through Flickr) and RSS feeds (through My Yahoo!). Some people say that it's almost as passee as having an AOL account, and while there are times in the past that I've agreed with those folks, I'm here to tell you that I haven't been prouder to be a Yahoo! user than I am right now. And the reason for that is their newly launched Connected TV initiative, which made quite a splash earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

As you'll quickly see, Connected TV is representative of the first real steps towards bringing a full Internet experience to a television set. Yahoo! is choosing to do this by integrating a now-common web product called "widgets" into the on-screen experience, all with just the touch of a button. Through the Yahoo! TV Widgets, users will be able to access an endless library of web services from not only Yahoo! but also from other services like Twitter, CBS, eBay, Netflix and the New York Times. For those of you interested, here is a video demo of the TV Widgets in action.

What I like about what Yahoo! is doing here is that they are creating a very simple and intuitive way to introduce the consumer public to the idea of having access to the Internet through a television using existing hardware -- basically the TV itself and the remote that comes with it. There are no additional set-top boxes to purchase, no keyboard to use and the user is in control of customizing the way the widgets are presented on the screen relative to the TV program that's on the screen.

The main drawback of the Yahoo! offering is that it's probably not something that you can add to your existing TV set. Having said that, there's no reason why your cable/satellite provider couldn't offer something similar through their service. My provider (Verizon FiOS) already has a widget offering in its menu, but it's pretty weak compared to what Yahoo! is offering, so hopefully they'll get their act together . . . and soon!

And for those of you that want a deeper dive on the subject of Internet on your TV and see what today's industry leaders are saying about the promise of tomorrow, a good place to start is this January New York Times article which covered the topic in the context of the CES show.

It really is a brave new world!

Thursday, April 09, 2009


There are very few things that exist in the digital media space that I would put in the category of being a pet peeve of mine -- but this is definitely at the top of my list, and my rant on this has been a long time in coming.

In all the years that I've observed and been involved in the mobile web (aka WAP for you industry aficionados), I have never understood why any company/brand/publisher/media company would use anything other than the traditional ".com" top-level domain their mobile web destination URL. As we've all seen, there have been a whole host of mobile-specific top-level domains and URLs that have been, and continue to be, employed and marketed to consumers with web-enabled mobile phones -- for example:

* (e.g.,
* -- (e.g.,
* -- (e.g.,

For those of us in the mobile space, I ask you -- isn't the ultimate goal here to educate the consumer public that the web is the web is the web -- regardless of whether you use a PC, a mobile phone, a game console or a TV to access it? Doesn't the mere presence of different URLs just add to the confusion rather than address and remedy it? I definitely think it does. And from a business perspective, I'd prefer to funnel all my web traffic, regardless of where it comes from, through one domain so that I can get credit for the audience and also better monetize them.

Sure the visual experience for the consumer will be different across these screens, but as true convergence continues to become a reality through increased proliferation of smartphones with a more robust web experience as well as the promise of Internet to the TV screen, those differences will continue to diminish. And in the meantime, let's all agree that the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid!) approach is probably the best one here. Just use your existing ".com" URL for your mobile web site -- and make sure to ask whoever is helping you develop it to make sure an put in that one line of code on your web server that automatically detects whether someone is trying to access your site from a mobile phone so that that the correct site is rendered. It's that simple!

So say YES to ".com" and NO to everything else -- who else is with me?!

Monday, April 06, 2009


I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that pretty much all of us have, at one time or another, wanted to throw our cell phones out the window after having a call drop for the 100th time while talking on it in our homes. Well have no fear, a technology called femtocells (don't ask me where they came up with that name!) is coming to a neighborhood store near you -- hopefully sooner rather than later.

So what exactly are femtocells? In a nutshell, they're super small versions of cell towers (also known as "access point base stations") that are housed in a piece of hardware that looks like your standard home Internet modem. In some cases they will come pre-installed with an Internet modem -- mostly in those cases where you have a provider (e.g., AT&T, Verizon, etc.) who your cell phone and home Internet service. If that's not the case, then you'll likely need to get a sepate box -- either way these femtocells use existing high speed Internet connection in your home. From what I can tell, the current versions that are in development will be able to support 2-4 cell phones in one location, and they'll operate much like a home Wi-Fi environment in that you'll be able to "lock" your network and limit access so that you don't have folks camped outside your house poaching your signal.

As of last year, Sprint was the first carrier here in the U.S. to make the service (called "Airave") available nationwide -- for those of you interested you can see get more info on their web site here. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are apparently in the trial phase and should be rolling out their femtocell services sometime this year. And since I haven't tried these services yet, I can't really vouch for how well (or not!) they work.

So if you haven't already chucked that cell phone out your living room window, you now have even more reason than ever to hold on to it!

If you have any suggestions on topics to be covered as part of this T.A.P. series, drop me a line at


I don't know about you, but for years now I've been one of those people that family and friends call up with questions about pretty much anything and everything having to do with technology -- I guess the thinking is that since I've been in businesses involving computers, the Internet and cell phones for a while now, I must know a little something about any or all of those things. And they're right - with an emphasis on the word "little!"

So it got me thinking that it may be useful every once in a while to write about a topic that, while it may be something that is on the minds of my family and friends (and by extension, maybe your family and friends), they haven't yet gotten around to asking me about it -- for now I'll call it the T.A.P. ("Tech for the Average Person") series. And unfortunately it's gonna be a bit more advanced than things like "how do I set my answering machine?" (sorry mom and dad. . .) or "what is this Facebook/LinkedIn thing all about?" (if you don't know already, don't bother) -- but not by much!

So if there's anything on your mind that you've been wondering about, feel free to drop me a line at and I'll see what helpful info I can come up with for you!

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Over the last several months there's been a lot of chatter about this, both in the media/blogosphere as well as (more importantly!) within the Facebook community. Doing a quick search on Facebook for "Facebook charging" bring back 287 group results (many of which have few, if any, members) generally related to this topic. Two early articles include one from Farhad Manjoo at Slate and Mike Masnick from TechDirt.

Since it seems to be a slow brain day, I thought I'd revisit a somewhat old topic today, instead of coming up with a new one on my own, and give my two cents (after all - that's about all my opinion is worth these days!). I will admit right off the bat that my opinion is not 100% Facebook-user centric, but rather also looks at this also from the perspective of what makes sense from a business perspective. So you won't be seeing me join any of these groups anytime soon!

I've been fortunate enough to have worked at two companies -- Playboy and American Greetings -- that have demonstrated a certain measure of success with employing a multi-revenue stream model in their online businesses -- what I would call the "three-legged revenue stool" -- Advertising (banners, buttons, video ads, etc.); Access Fees (charging users a toll of some kind to access premium content and/or services) and E-Commerce (selling tangible products).

Based in part on my time spent at these companies, and also based in part on my feeling that diversification in one's portfolio -- whether it's your online business or your 401(k) -- is a good thing, I happen to be a fan of the multi-leg stool. It goes without saying that the more legs (within reason!) a stool has, the sturdier that stool will be. Too many online businesses of late have decided to put all their eggs in the single-leg stool model (advertising) and as a result, have been unable to develop a defensible/scalable business model for themselves.

By having multiple revenue streams, a business can manage these streams like levers, and throttle them up or down depending on factors like consumer behavior & feedback, market conditions, competitive landscape and effective ROI. These streams in turn act like a natural hedge, giving the company that much more to fall back on in case one of the legs of the stool starts to get a bit wobbly.

By all accounts, Facebook, for all its immense global popularity and usage is still not a profitable business and they're yet again looking to raise a ton of additional money (somewhere in the neighborhood of $1oo million) to help keep the lights on. Clearly the current models in place for generating revenue are not paying the bills, so as with any smart business, they should be (and likely are) looking at ways to generate enough cash to get to profitability and generate a respectible return for their investors -- after all, isn't that the basic goal of most companies?

It's safe to say that with around 200 million users worldwide and the distinction of being one of, if not the largest photo storage/sharing site on the Web, Facebook has evolved beyond simply a social network and into a social utility -- one that provides value to most, if not all, of its users. So why a valuable utility not charge its customers for some portion of its service? The questions then become -- what to charge for and how much? In terms of what to charge for, it could be anywhere from a flat fee for initial access to an advertising-free Facebook environment to tiered charges based on usage (consumer vs. commercial accounts, # of photos uploaded, # of friends in your friends list AKA address book, etc.).

For example, let's assume that Facebook charged a flat fee of $1 per month for consumer access to the service, and assuming that the majority of users (let's say 75% for the sake of argument) agreed to pay the toll, that would be a nice chunk of change for Facebook - $150 million dollars PER MONTH give or take. Of course nobody can predict what percentage of users would actually stop using Facebook and what effect an access fee ecosystem would have on new user sign ups, but if you're like me you wouldn't think twice about paying 12 bucks a year to service one of the most valuable social utilities ever invented. After all, we happily pay for other valuable services -- my roster includes the gym, Netflix, Flickr Pro -- that cost as much if not way more -- so why not Facebook?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Woke up this morning to find an email in my inbox (well, technically in my Spam folder -- good thing I check that once in a while) from Blackberry letting me know that their App World is open for business. Went ahead and downloaded it onto my Curve and gave it a test drive -- here are some initial observations and a snapshot of my user experience:

* The navigation is pretty straightforward but definitely highlights the inferiority of the track wheel based nav of the Blackberry versus the finger swipe nav of the iPhone. The home screen is mostly dedicated to a horizontal scrolling presentaton of "Featured" apps, of which there are 11 - and the first one is (big surprise!) the Facebook app. Below the scroll area are four icons that you can navigate to and click on -- Categories, Top Downloads, Search and My World.

* A couple of things that, at first blush, may be a little bit surprising if you believe that the vast majority of Blackberry users are "older" (30+) and use the device primarily, if not exclusively, for business reasons:

1. Of the 529 apps that available, over 40% (227 to be exact) are in the "Games" category. The category with the second most apps (90) is "Productivity & Utilities" -- now that's more like it!

2. The top paid download (#23 in a list of 25) is PhoneyFarts -- so much for the sophistication of Blackberry users!

* Tried to download a paid app (PhoneyFarts -- what else?!) so that I could check out their payment integration with PayPal. The log in and purchase part of the process was extremely pain-free, but as the transaction was finalizing I got an error message letting me know that there were problems completing the purchase because of the system's inability to "obtain a license key." Not sure what that means other than a lost opportunity to Blackberry to convert a paying customer. And oddly enough, I got an email from PayPal with the subject line "Receipt for Your Payment" - hmm, wonder whether they actually charged me!

* So it now keeps getting worse . . . the app store seems to have frozen my device. I'm in the My World section of the app where I'm staring at the icon of my failed app purchase, and I can't navigate away from it whatsoever. Looks like it's time to do the old pull out the battery thing -- UGH!

* Tried to download another paid app - this time got a different error message letting me know that they're having trouble conecting to the App World server - strike two!!

* Finally tried to download a free app (Vegas Pool Sharks Lite) - and as they say, third time is a charm! App downloaded with no issues and the full functionality is intact. I can only assume that my problems with the first two tries had to do with the fact that they were paid apps and had some issues reconciling with the PayPal authentication system.

VERDICT: Not the best customer experience out of the gate, but as with any newly launched product, there are hiccups and bugs that I'm sure will be addressed. As a longtime Blackberry user, I for one am glad to have access to a native app store so that I can finally move on from Brickbreaker!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I've been kicking myself for a while now about not getting back in the blogging saddle before now -- but life has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans!

And by "life" I mean the snowball effect that our current world economic state has caused. My most recent employer - a publicly traded, family owned, magazine-centric business (which some would consider three strikes right out of the gate) has been going through some challenging times for the better part of the last 12+ months, and recently informed its employees that it was taking some drastic measures in an effort to reduce expenses and "right the ship." Those measures included closing the posh NYC mid-town digs and centralization of its digital media operations to the company's HQ in Chicago (not exactly a digital media hotbed - but that's for another time!).

As a result of these moves, a decision was made that it was time for my employer and I to part ways -- an event which, to my surprise, got some press coverage - both on its own ( as well as part of subsequent moves at the company (

It was a good 3+ year run but definitely time to move on . . . which in theory means I should have more time to dedicate to the business of writing a personal musings blog! The irony is that since I left, I've been busier than ever - a combination of enjoying the much-needed downtime with my family and talking to a ton of folks (VCs, industry headhunters, colleagues, companies, etc.) about the next potential gig. Needless to say it's been an interesting process - but I'll save that for the next post - so stay tuned!