- Pixable: 10 Percent Of Facebook Photos Are Profile Pics
- Euro VC Rockstar Katy Turner Departs Eden Ventures For VideoPlaza
- Google Starts Adding Flight Schedules And Airline Routes In Search
- Do You Prefer Cell Phones Over Sleep? You’re Not Alone
- Disrupt NYC, In Tweets
- By Popular Demand, The Music From Disrupt – Available For Download
- Analyst Argues Against Google’s Chrome OS Security Promises
- Apple’s iCloud Needs To Be More Than Just An Online Locker To “Transform Music”
- Roku Taps YuMe To Power Video Advertising For Streaming Players
- Online Advertising Revenues Up 23 Percent Since Q1 2010, Reach $7.3 Billion
- PayPal Lawsuit Against Google Reveals Recruiting Saga And A Deal Gone Sour
- EcoMotors Chief Don Runkle: “Electric Vehicles Are Not ‘Zero Emissions’”
- Gmail’s ‘People Widget’ Takes On Rapportive, No Browser Plugin Required
- Now You Can See Twitter The Way I See Twitter
- 90% Of Users Join Tumblr From Blogs, 85% Of Those Users Are Still Blogging A Week Later
- Startup Mantra: Hire Fast, Fire Fast
- A Year After Diaspora, Another “Facebook Alternative” Emerges: Altly
- Special Stickers Will Bring Google Wallet To Android Phones That Lack NFC
- The Gilt For Indian Fashion Exclusively.in Raises $16 Million
- Google Wallet On iPhone, WP7, RIM: “We Will Partner With Everyone” (But Will *They*?)
Posted: 27 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT
Pixable, a startup that develops sleek social photo creation and categorization tools for Facebook and other photo sharing sites, has released an infographic today that includes a number of impressive stats regarding profile pictures on the social network.
Pixable's service, which has 800,000 users, allows people to use of all their Facebook and image sharing site photo content like captions, tagging information, comments, and birthdays to make albums, slideshows, calendars and nor artwork. Pixable's browser-based simplifies the creation of albums, making it easy to use for anyone. One of Pixable’s early applications was a nifty tool that allows you to make mosaics of your Facebook photos.
According to Pixable, 10 percent of all Facebook photos (which are expected to hit 100 billion photos downloaded this summer) are profile pictures. Women upload profile pics more often than men, with women uploading photos every two weeks compared to three weeks for men. And the number of profile photos uploaded per user has tripled since 2006. On average, the typical profile photo has 2 likes and 2 comments.
While we know that Facebook is dominating the photo sharing space, it’s interesting to see a deep data dive on profile pics, in particular.
Posted: 27 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT
Respected European venture capital associate Katy Turner is leaving Eden Ventures to join video advertising startup Videoplaza, working as their head of marketing out of London. The startup is currently making a name for itself delivering video advertising across the the web and into other devices like TV. It’s secured plenty of VC backing to achieve this.
Posted: 27 May 2011 08:28 AM PDT
Now, when you search for a destination on Google, you can see which airlines serve that specific route and when they fly. For example, if you search for flights from ‘New York to Chicago,’ you’ll see schedules of all the non-stop flights that serve that route, which airlines fly, and times. You can access the full timetable by clicking on "Schedule of non-stop flights."
You can also see all the destinations with non-stop flights from a particular airport. So if you are in Chicago, you can search for ‘flights from Chicago’ and Google will show you a number of routes from Chicago’s airports and which airlines fly from the airport. Similar to the schedule feature, if you click “Show all non-stop routes,” you can get the full list of destinations and from there, you can click to get more flight details.
In the post, Google software engineer Petter Wedum writes that the company is ‘eager to begin developing new flight search tools’ that are integrated with ITA’s software. Of course, the DOJ has mandated a number of conditions that Google has to abide by with regard to ITA’s presence and integration into the search company. It should be interesting to see what Google has up its sleeve for travel and flight search.
Posted: 27 May 2011 08:22 AM PDT
Our obsession with our smartphones has grown into a full-blown addiction, according to a new survey in the iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report. According to iPass, one of every three mobile workers get up regularly throughout the night to check email on their phone, and nearly half of those surveyed admitted that they couldn't sleep without a smartphone within reach.
Posted: 27 May 2011 08:20 AM PDT
I am still recovering from Disrupt NYC. It was our biggest event ever, and we’ll be posting more videos and highlights throughout the next few days. But here are a couple of charts that give a snapshot of the activity around the event as measured by Tweets with the event hashtag #TCDisrupt (thanks for the charts, Simply Measured).
In the chart above you can see the distribution of Tweets across the three days. That spike on Day three was related to an iPad giveaway linked to people Tweeting out the hashtag, which was Tweeted out 18,177 times (and that doesn’t include tweets that used other hashtags such as #disrupt or simply mentioned Disrupt without a hashtag).
But I particularly like the chart below, which shows the distribution of Tweets with the #TCDisrupt hashtag which also mentioned the names of the six Battlefield finalists. In terms of which companies generated the most buzz on Twitter, Disrupt NYC winner Getaround garnered the most mentions with a 38 percent share. Runner-up Sonar was second with 21 percent, with the other runner-up BillGuard getting 17 percent. Another finalist, Do@, edged out BillGuard with 18 percent of mentions.
You can find videos of the finalists and all of Disrupt NYC here.
Posted: 27 May 2011 07:53 AM PDT
We’ve gotten a lot of requests for our Disrupt conference theme music. Some conference attendees and webcast viewers apparently can’t get the music out of their heads and want to hear it some more. Instead of picking music from a music production library, this year we created custom tracks.
The music came to us all the way from New Zealand from a company called Smith & Keats Music. They have a background in creating pop hits and have earned a reputation for specializing in music for the tech industry. Other clients have included Nintendo and Sony-Ericsson.
The composers say living in New Zealand gives them exposure to a broader range of artists from around the world. In the US and other countries, the music charts are dominated by local artists. Not so for New Zealand, where they claim only the best of the best makes it to their shores.
The time difference in New Zealand was also a plus. TechCrunch gave Smith & Keats direction and feedback on the music via email late at night, which was midday in New Zealand. So, when we woke up the next day, there was new music sitting in our inbox.
Here are the 5 music cuts. Smith & Keats has given us permission to post them online and make them available to download. We even heard about a special dance that developed to them, so dance away.
Track 1. Preshow [download link]
Track 2. Lunch [download link]
Track 3 Post Show (featuring “TechCrunch Disrupt” audio sample; a crowd favorite) [download link]
Track 4 Battlefield Transistion (used for the Startup Battlefield segments and the motorcycle giveaway deliberations) [download link]
Track 5 Segment Transition [download link]
Posted: 27 May 2011 07:40 AM PDT
Google made a couple bold statements about its upcoming Chromebook tablet, many of which have certainly excited consumers, particularly the promise of an end to security hassles. In the Chromebook launch announcement, Google claimed that "Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain. Even more importantly, you won't spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date." Sounds nice, right? Well, Trend Micro's security consultant Rik Ferguson vigorously disagrees, claiming that the search giant risks repeating the same security mistakes Apple made.
Posted: 27 May 2011 06:53 AM PDT
As we’ve suspected for a long time, Apple is very close to launching an online music service which may go by the name iCloud. The basic idea is that it will mirror your iTunes collection online so that it is available on any device without clunky cable syncing.
While getting rid of those cables will be a big step forward, if iCloud is nothing more than a music locker service it won’t go far towards transforming digital music, as BusinessWeek proclaims. Brad Stone and Andy Fixmer at BusinessWeek report that three out of the four major U.S. music labels have already signed up with Apple, and the fourth is about to sign. This will give Apple a huge advantage over already-announced music services from Amazon and Google, both of whom failed to secure licenses from the music industry and thus launched with compromised products. Since they don’t have the right licenses for streaming music, they require consumers to upload their music collections to the “locker” services. (Apparently, Google was willing to pay the labels $100 million up front for the music rights, “but talks broke down over the music industry’s concern that search results in Google and YouTube often point to pirated music”). Apple will simply index your collection and mirror it without the need for bulky uploads. Here is how BusinessWeek describes Apple’s upcoming iCloud music service:
So let me get this straight. Apple’s iCloud will be iTunes online, with a few features that make it slightly better than Google’s Music Beta—namely, I won’t have to spend hours uploading my music collection and I will get better quality audio files for some songs. That’s all great, but I am not sure it is enough for me to pay a monthly subscription. If it’s bundled with MobileMe, it certainly would make that service more appealing, but I wouldn’t pay for iCloud as a standalone service if that is all there is to it. And certainly, this could turn out to be only one part of a revamped MobileMe service. Depending on what else will be added, iCloud could help push more MobileMe subscriptions overall.
But let’s take iCloud as a standalone service. If it’s so great, people should be willing to pay for it on its own. But why would I pay a monthly subscription for the privilege to listen to my own music collection streamed from the Internet? I’ve already paid for all those songs, and now I am going to pay again just to have them available online? I don’t think so. Guess what, I can already do that for free with Google Musc beta. Sure, it takes a while to upload all of your songs. But it’s all done in the background with a music manager desktop software that you download. When I did it, I was surprised at how fast my songs became available—so much so that I thought Google was mirroring my collection. (You can see what Google Music Beta looks like in this episode of Fly or Die, which I’ve embedded below).
Forget about streaming your own collection from the cloud. That’s great and all, and it should be a feature of iTunes included for free. If I am going to pay a monthly subscription for a music service, I’d better be getting access to any song I want. I’d rather sign up for Rhapsody, Rdio, or (one day) Spotify, and get unlimited access to millions of songs. If Apple wants to truly transform digital music again, it needs to change the way we consume and pay for it. If iCloud is just a better music locker, it’s not terribly exciting. If it’s also a jukebox in the sky with a full-blown music subscription service tied to my existing iTunes collection—well, now I’m listening.
Photo Credit/Flickr/Kevin Dooley
Posted: 27 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT
Streaming video player developer Roku has partnered with video advertising company YuMe to allow content owners to provide video advertising for media. DreamTV and Blastro Networks are among the first Roku content providers to start using YuMe’s video advertising platform.
Roku has sold more than 1 million of its streaming entertainment devices for the TV. The company, who has not offered video advertising to publishers until now, will be integrating YuMe's ACE technology platform, which serves more than 1 billion ad impressions per month.
As we’ve written in the past, YuMe's technology places video ads dynamically on videos on a number of publishers across a variety of platform. And the company also offers developers monetization technologies for video publishers that allows them to build apps to support mobile video ads; which is how the company is helping Roku publishers.
YuMe’s technology will help video distributors deliver advertising to targeted audiences in the most relevant context on multiple screens— computers and connected TVs as well as Apple iOS, RIM, Symbian and Android operating systems.
Posted: 27 May 2011 03:00 AM PDT
Best. first. quarter. evar. Some good news in today from the online advertising industry: The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has announced that online advertising revenues hit $7.3 billion in the U.S. in the first quarter. While this does not represent the best quarterly performance in history (Q4 2010 takes the cake at $7.45 billion), it does mark the best first quarter on record, and reflects a 23 percent increase since the first quarter of 2010.
The overall numbers for 2010 were impressive, with total online ad revenues reaching $26 billion. Search made up 46 percent of that total in 2010, followed by display ads at 38 percent. But display advertising grew twice as fast as search (24 percent growth versus 12 percent), and, today, Karsten Weide of IDC says, display advertising continues to grow faster than search advertising.
Some other interesting tidbits from IDC’s report: Worldwide online ad spending grew by 14.3 percent from $15.9 billion in Q1 2010 to $18.2 billion in Q1 2011, and U.S. spending in online advertising increased by 14.2 percent from $7.1 billion in Q1 2010 to $8.1 billion in Q1 2011. The IDC forecasts U.S. online ad spending to grow 13.3 percent to $8.3 billion in Q2 2011 and 13.8 percent total in 2011.
Also of note: Google overtook Yahoo as the leader in display advertising, with 14.7 percent of the market compared to Yahoo’s 12.3 percent share. Microsoft declined to 6.5 percent, while Facebook rose to 8.8 percent, according to Weide.
While some analysts expected online advertising revenues and spending to cool their jets this year, the data isn’t showing much reason to bet against 2011 becoming another banner year for digital advertising. Viva la Internet.
Posted: 26 May 2011 07:32 PM PDT
Google is making a bold play to enter mobile payments, and PayPal doesn’t like it one bit. Shortly after Google announced its new mobile wallet for Android phones today, Paypal filed a lawsuit against Google and two former PayPal executives who now are in charge of mobile payments at Google (Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius).
The complaint (embedded below) alleges “misappropriation of trade secrets, and “breach of fiduciary duty.” It revolves around Osama Bedier, who was the VP of Platform, Mobile, and New Ventures at PayPal before he was recruited to work at Google by Android chief Andy Rubin, Google co-founder Larry Page, and Bedier’s former PayPal colleague Stephanie Tilenius (who now heads up Commerce and Payments at Google, and I interviewed yesterday onstage at Disrupt NYC).
The lawsuit reveals that Google was negotiatiating with PayPal for two years to power payments on mobile devices. But just as the deal was about to be signed, Google backed off and instead hired the PayPal executive negotiating the deal—Bedier. The lawsuit lays out the sequence of events:
Bedier was offered a job at Google on October 31. He didn’t take it immediately, but after a few months of back and forth, he finally accepted the job in January, 2011. All of this coincided with Larry Page taking over as CEO, and a shift in Google’s strategy to build instead of partner in mobile payments.
The lawsuit notes that Bedier knew all of PayPal’s future plans for mobile payments, as well as an internal detailed analysis of Google’s weaknesses in the area. Not only that, it accuses him of storing “confidential eBay information in locations such as his non-PayPal computers, non-PayPal e-mail account, and an account on the remote computing service called ‘DropBox.’”
What did Bedier do with all of these “trade secrets”? The implication is that he used his knowledge of PayPal’s strategy to craft Google’s mobile wallet strategy (yup, the same one revealed today). He also used that knowledge to sell Google’s mobile wallet to big retailers:
And finally, he actively recruited other PayPal employees, just as Tilenius helped to recruit him (which is why she is named in the suit as well). Assuming this thing gets settled before it goes to court, how much is hiring Bedier going to end up costing Google?
Update 5/27: I asked Google for a comment last night about this lawsuit. Today, a spokesperson gave me this statement:
“Silicon Valley was built on the ability of individuals to use their knowledge and expertise to seek better employment opportunities, an idea recognized by both California law and public policy. We respect trade secrets, and will defend ourselves against these claims.”
Photo credit: Flickr/Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat
Posted: 26 May 2011 02:33 PM PDT
The chief executive officers of two very different clean tech startups, Brammo and EcoMotors, discussed the relative merits and limitations of clean vehicle technology at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York on Wednesday.
Oregon-based Brammo designs and manufactures all-electric motorcycles and the battery technology and software that powers them, while Michigan-based EcoMotors designs and makes more efficient combustion engines.
EcoMotors’ CEO Don Runkle roundly criticized clean tech advocates who say all-electric vehicles (EVs) are “zero emissions.” Causing a bit of a stir in the conference hall, Runkle, the former VP of engineering at GM, went on to claim that EcoMotors’ engine technology enables car companies to produce diesel-powered vehicles that have a lower, overall carbon footprint than any electric automobile available today.
Given that electric vehicles don’t produce diesel exhaust, and don’t use fossil fuels, how can this be? Runkle explained: more than 50 percent of the world’s power is generated by the burning of coal, today, and that had to factor into the “carbon footprint” assessment of all-electric vehicles.
Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher said that he refrains from calling his company’s plug-in, electric motorcycles — including the Enertia, Empulse, Engage and Encite (some models have yet to hit the road) – “zero emissions vehicles.”
During a live broadcast backstage following the session, Bramscher noted that power generation is changing, and coal will become a smaller piece of the overall energy equation over time. He also said, “The argument you have to burn coal to generate electricity is true but [electric vehicles] still 92 percent more efficient [than combustion]…”
On the main stage, Bramscher said that personally, he didn’t want his children fighting to defend an oil field as petroleum resources become strained. He would be much happier when they grow up if they could find work designing or making batteries, instead.
Watch the video from the session on Disrupting Transportation (above) and the backstage interview with Craig Bramscher (below) to learn more about emerging clean vehicle technology from Ecomotors and Brammo.
[Ed's note: TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington makes a cameo appearance with Craig Bramscher.]
Image in excerpt: Michael Arrington test-drives a Brammo Enertia inside of the #tcdisrupt conference hall at Pier 94 in New York City.
Posted: 26 May 2011 01:13 PM PDT
Google has just announced that it’s rolling out a new feature over the next week called the People Widget — a small sidebar to the right of email messages that features contextual information about the people you’re interacting with in Gmail. I don’t have the feature active yet so I’m going by the screenshots provided, but it looks like the widget includes each person’s job title, recent email exchanges you’ve had with them, photo, calendar availability, and shared Google Docs. It also includes Buzz updates (hopefully Twitter integration is coming as well).
If you only exchange a handful of messages a day then this probably isn’t a game changer for you, but if you’re constantly having to deal with a flurry of projects and hundreds of contacts, then it could be a godsend. Of course, Google actually isn’t the first company to offer contextually relevant information within Gmail (strange as that may sound). Startups like Rapportive and Xobni have created browser widgets that offer similar functionality.
Rapportive actually includes information from more sources, including LinkedIn, Skype and our own CrunchBase. But Gmail has a couple big advantages: first, it obviously doesn’t require a browser plugin, which is important from a user-acquisition standpoint. And, for those of us who are paranoid about our email, Gmail’s People Widget doesn’t require you to entrust any of your account information to a third-party. Rapportive only looks at the contacts you’re interacting with (and not your message content), but that’s still something.
Posted: 26 May 2011 12:54 PM PDT
Twitter has just rolled out a nifty little feature. Now on anyone’s profile, when click on the “Following” link, you’ll be able to see exactly how they see Twitter. In other words, you can see the same timeline of tweets that they see when they’re looking at their main feed.
It’s a cool feature that makes sense from a discovery standpoint. If you know I’m a power Twitter user that probably follows a bunch of good people, you can now quickly scan the tweets those people send out and see which ones you want to follow.
This is a similar concept to what News.me does for news stories. There, you look at a person’s profile and can see the shared links that they see in their Twitter stream. (It’s also worth noting that Twitter actually had this feature back in the day but shut it off a number of years ago.)
The old “Following” option (a list of users another user follows) is still there under the “People” tab. Here, you’ll also find a “You Both Follow” area, which is nice.
It’s important to note that you won’t be able to see protected tweets from users you don’t follow, obviously. Also worth noting: the feature doesn’t show you exactly what I see since I see my own tweets, but Twitter removes those when you look my following stream (makes sense since I’m not actually following myself — though I would, if I could).
The feature is still rolling out, so if you don’t see it just yet, don’t panic. Just wait longer. If you do see it, here’s my following stream.
Update: One more little discovery bonus. If you look at the upper right corner of the following page you’ll see a “shuffle” icon. Hovering over this reveals the option to “jump to someone you follow”. So you can jump between people you follow and find new people to follow from their streams.
Posted: 26 May 2011 11:30 AM PDT
Tumblr founder David Karp and Instagram founder Kevin Systrom took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt to talk about the hockey stick growth of their respective companies. Tumblr in particular is showing insane growth numbers; On May 16th, 2011 Tumblr did 250 million pageviews, more pageviews than it had in all of July 2009. That record was then surpassed six days later, at 275 million pageviews on Sunday May 22th. There were also 34.3 million posts on that Sunday, also a Tumblr record.
Perhaps the service is demonstrating sustained success because of its organic user acquisition methods; 90% of Tumblr’s new registrations come through Tumblr blogs themselves.
Says Karp on the new users, “90% come from the Join Tumblr button up in the corner of blogs, the Follow button on blogs, typing in Tumblr after you’ve visited a blog on Tumblr so you’re trying to investigate what this thing is that they’re using, or clicking the Powered by Tumblr link at the bottom of the screen.” This means that the other 10% are either typing in Tumblr.com directly or Googling. Once registered 85% of users are still posting a week after sign up.
There are currently almost 20 million blogs on Tumblr, and that number seems to be rapidly rising. “Frankly, [there's] pretty little incentive to sign up,” says Karp. “It’s not like you have to register to comment on those blogs or to interact with them. But people see these things that people are doing with Tumblr and it inspires them to want to try that for themselves.”
Posted: 26 May 2011 11:18 AM PDT
I have often said that what separates real entrepreneurs from pundits and bystanders is a bias towards getting things done versus over analyzing things. My credo has always been JFDI.
It's the hardest thing to teach people who come out of big companies, out of conservative jobs. At the big consulting firms, investment banks and established large technology companies we're taught to produce long reports, make sure that every document is perfect quality and that every possible bit of diligence has been done. Good enough isn't.
And so things operate on a CYA basis.
That doesn't work in a startup.
There's a certain cadence that you can feel when you spend time hanging any well-run startup company. The management team has to have a bias toward making decisions. They know that a 70% accurate decision made quickly and based on sound principles is better than a 90% decision made after careful consideration.
The startup entrepreneur knows that they're going to be wrong often. They're flexible and willing to admit when they're wrong. They don't create a culture of punishment for mistakes. They live be the credo that if you're never making mistakes you're not trying hard enough.
In my mind the sign of a great entrepreneur is the one that spots the 30% scenario quickly and adjusts but doesn't get gun shy about rapid decision-making in the future.
In fact, analysis paralysis drives me fucking bonkers. It is not uncommon in a meeting for me to say, "There are three choices: A, B, C. My gut tells me that we ought to do B. But let's decide as a group. I don't care if my view isn't selected. Let's make a decision and move on."
Many people find this uncomfortable. The world is filled with people who don't like having to put their neck on the line and say what they think. I don't really care if I'm wrong as long as I'm not dogmatic if evidence later shows we need to change course.
So that was a long walk into the topic of recruiting. But given that I believe the success of startups is almost entirely correlated with having extra-ordinary talent, the ability to source, select and inspire new staff to join is one of the greatest early tests of entrepreneurs.
There is an old management adage that says, "Hire slowly, fire fast." The idea has become conventional wisdom. It says that you need to take due care in selecting team members. It also says that you need to act quickly when your instinct says somebody isn't working out.
Only half of this adage is accurate for startups.
I'm not arguing that no screening is required. There are obvious questions you have give staff to get a gut feel on cultural fit, intelligence, aptitude and the like.
But here's the thing. I see many teams that feel the need to interview another 3 candidates just to be sure. They suffer the decision on the way in. They over think the decision framework.
I come from the "Blink" school of recruiting and decision-making. If you haven't read it, you should. As humans most of us are inherently good at reading people and our innate instincts for "fit" are much better than our ability to analyze humans on a spreadsheet.
I also subscribe to the views that you should always be recruiting (ABR) and when great people pop up you hire them and then find a way to make the role fit. I'd much rather have the super bright, super ambitious, great cultural fit in my business now than look for the "perfect" person who's done this job before and maybe find them in 3 months. 3 months is a lifetime in a startup.
And just as my gut feel about the likely success of startups is often determined by looking at their velocity of product development and market progress of their product, so too is recruiting a factor in my assessment.
Great leaders and great teams have the ability to find potential staff, evaluate their fit, inspire them to join and onboard them. They have good recruiting velocity.
Any team that I work with that struggles to hire people quickly knows that I'm likely frustrated because I have many other companies that I work with that aren't so slow.
And when we didn't ship product on time, didn't get the biz dev deals we wanted competed, didn't get our market messages out and the founder says, "sorry, I had too many other priorities – like fund raising" they know it will fall on deaf ears with me. Time spent onboarding new talented team members always yields more productivity than doing everything yourself.
"But we don't have budget!"
Great entrepreneurs find a way. Recruiting cadence matters.
I was trying to argue that it's OK to change jobs a few times when you're young and that "things happen" but that if things happened 5-6 times there is probably a pattern that isn't completely the fault of some asshole boss.
But people don't like to hear about firing or job cuts, so I was flamed.
So I have been reluctant to weigh in again on the topic publicly. Brad Feld and I were discussing the topic at lunch at the most excellent Glue Conference this week in Boulder.
He encouraged me to write this post and after smoking me out on Twitter I had no choice. ;-) Outed.
So here goes.
I have never regretted firing anybody. Not once.
I have on many occasions regretted not firing somebody quickly enough.
I don't take any pride in letting somebody go. I recognize that it affects somebody economically, can affect somebody's personal life and is one big blow to the ego. But if you're afraid of firing people you shouldn't be an entrepreneur. No startup company has any spare capacity for dead weight.
I've made every excuse to myself in the past, "I can't fire him now, he owns the customer relationships and it's a crucial point in our sales process." Or, "I haven't given him a long-enough chance to prove himself – let me see how he develops" or even, "it will have a big impact on morale because she is well liked. I can't afford that right now."
I've heard VCs use similar rationale, "We knew the CEO wasn't working out but we couldn't fire him because it would have made it too hard to get a fund raising round done" only to later regret not moving more quickly and reacting to the obvious discontent of the rest of the startup team.
I've lived through every excuse. And for every firing procrastination I've made, one month afterwards I've always felt the exact same way, "Why didn't I do this three months early?"
Trust me: if you know, you know. If you know, do it now. Things don't get better. Your "Blink" instincts are right. You won't patch things up. Delaying the inevitable is not going to make things smoother with your investors, biz dev partners, customers or employees.
There is only one answer: fire fast.
Firing somebody is no different than the other 10,000 decisions you need to make in your company to survive. You free up much needed budget. You free up the org chart to bring in new blood. Almost universally your staff will come out of the wood-works and say, "thank you, he needed to go."
When people aren't pulling their weight other members who are know it. And they're grateful to work in an organization where they're valued and slackers aren't.
When you have to fire somebody, don't pussyfoot about. Don't make up fake excuses about why they're going or try to pretend it's a redundancy or something. Tell them specifically what isn't working. Don't be mean for the sake of it. Give them suggestions of how they might think about the situation differently at the next company. Give them honest and constructive feedback.
If the sacking is legitimate, chances are they knew in their gut it wasn't working and will appreciate the candor.
Obviously make sure that you're following a legal process. In the US and UK if the termination comes reasonably quickly you're almost always OK but please double-check with your legal advisors.
To be clear – I'm not advocating creating a slash-and-burn employee culture where there is a constant revolving door. I do believe that you set the tone in your company that you as a founder work your arse off and expect it of others. You make sure people know it's a meritocracy and the best staff will rise to the top. Age and experience are irrelevant. Good people get ahead, bad people get asked to leave.
So there you have it. Most companies hire slowly and fire slowly – the exact opposite of best practice for startups.
Pick up your recruiting cadence. Take a risk on people who you think will be a good fit. Don't look for perfect resumes. Take some chances. Trust your gut feel. And when you got it wrong you move on. You'll recover.
Move fast. Don't delay the inevitable. Check your legal framework. Get your papers in order. Treat people with respect and professionalism. Be open and productive. But honest with them about their shortcomings or why they aren't working culturally. But fire them quickly.
Image courtesy of Joeff via Flickr.
Posted: 26 May 2011 10:57 AM PDT
It was almost exactly a year ago that Diaspora started raising money on Kickstarter. A few weeks later, they had raised $200,000 from nearly 6,500 backers. Why so much excitement? Because Diaspora was aiming to be a Facebook alternative. That hasn’t exactly worked out. At least not yet. But now another startup is about to give it a go, Altly.
So why will this one be any different than Diasopra? Well, for one thing, it’s being started by a pretty well-known entrepreneur. Dmitry Shapiro, the founder of Veoh, is also the one behind Altly. While Veoh didn’t end so well (a firesale acquisition after raising nearly $70 million), they were once a very hot property in the online video space.
But even more notably, Shapiro was most recently an executive at Facebook rival MySpace (he worked on MySpace Music).
So why is Shapiro now aiming head-first at Facebook? He outlines the decision in a lengthy post on Altly’s blog. The basic gist? Facebook’s privacy controls are too confusing. And their social graph is now a mess. Oh, and they’re way too big and powerful. Their “tentacles” are everywhere on the web, and this is a problem because our privacy is at risk. Our data is locked in. Etc.
In other words, the usual critiques of Facebook.
But my favorite reason is this:
Mind. Blown. Well, except for the aforementioned Diaspora. And MySpace, which was once king, and tried to compete with Facebook, but simply lost. And others.
But Shapiro does have a point. As he writes:
But the problem is that this is not because of anything nefarious Facebook is doing. It’s simply because the rivals that have popped up haven’t been very good. And Facebook, for all its faults, is a very good, and very well-run product.
So Altly will take on this monumental task. And they’ll apparently do so with backing from DFJ.
They seem to be saying the right things. But so did Diaspora. It’s all about the execution. We’ll be watching this one closely, obviously.
Posted: 26 May 2011 10:47 AM PDT
We’re here at Google’s NFC payments announcement, where the search giant has announced a new, important product called Google Wallet (see our comprehensive post on the announcement here). Google Wallet will be launching this summer — it’s currently in field testing — allowing users to tap their phones against NFC-enabled terminals to pay for goods, redeem offers, and use their loyalty cards in a single tap.
Of course, the vast majority of phones out there do not support NFC (the Nexus S is currently the only Android phone on the market that has the technology). Google and its partners reiterated that NFC will be surging in popularity over the next couple of years, and for the time being this is really a first step. But Google also has a plan to enable older devices to use a more limited version of the app: stickers that you can put on the back of your phone.
Google’s Osama Bedier was intentionally vague about the details, but here’s what the plan seems to be: users will be able to obtain special NFC stickers with a single credit card associated with them (such stickers already exist, but these stickers will apparently be able to communicate with the Google Wallet app). It sounds like transactions made using the sticker will be relayed to the Wallet application on your Android device via the cloud. Bedier added that the experience would be limited compared to what you’d get on NFC-enabled phones, but it still sounds pretty nifty.
It’s possible this functionality will be extended to other platforms as well, as Google says it’s willing to partner with everyone to help broaden support for Google Wallet.
And, even if you don’t have the sticker, you’ll still be able to use the Wallet app to keep track of your offers, which you’ll be able to show to cashiers at participating retailers (SCVNGR and Groupon do similar things with their mobile apps).
Posted: 26 May 2011 10:30 AM PDT
Exclusively.In, a members-only niche flash sales site for fashion, jewelry and home decor from Indian artisans and designers, has raised $16 million in new funding led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from Accel Partners India and Helion Venture Partners. This brings the company’s total funding to $18.6 million.
As we’ve written in the past, the site features high-end traditional Indian apparel as well as scarves, jewelry, handbags, crafts, paintings, photography and other home goods made by Indian designers. And Exclusively.in also recently launched travel and wedding verticals.
As part of its expansion strategy, Exclusively.In is also announcing its official launch into the U.K. market, one of the largest consumer markets for Indian fashion outside of India. The site plans to to roll out additional markets as well, including Canada and India in the coming months.
Although the site caters to the Indian diaspora currently but it will be interesting if Exclusively.In will be able to appeal to a broader audience. The company's co-founder and CEO Sunjay Guleria tells us that site has experienced strong demand from a broad base of consumers, not just the Indian diaspora, as "Indian-infused" fashion and decorations go mainstream. And Exclusively.In is growing at a 50 percent month-on-month rate already just in the US.
Eventually, Guleria says that Exclusively.in will be a hybrid e-commerce site, offering both flash sales and regularly prices items in permanent collections. And the site is hoping to add curates sales and an editorial component (a strategy that both Gilt and One Kings Lane are pursuing as well).
Exclusively.In plans to used the funding for new market expansion, optimization of its merchandising mix, further growth of its userbase, and for hiring.
Posted: 26 May 2011 10:19 AM PDT
Today, during their Google Wallet/Offers unveiling at the NYC headquarters, Google touted the openness of their new system. Naturally, someone asked a question about what this meant for other, non-Android phone?
“In terms of iPhone, RIM, Microsoft — we will partner with everyone,” Google VP of Commerce Stephanie Tilenius said. Of course, that depends on two things: 1) the inclusion of NFC chips in their phones. 2) the willingness to work with Google on this system.
The former seems to be a sure thing at this point. The latter? Yeah…
It has been widely rumored for months that Apple was working on their own NFC solution for a future version of the iPhone (perhaps the next iteration, perhaps not). It is coming, and Apple is going to want to use their own payment solution. The same is likely true for Microsoft and RIM. NFC is a huge opportunity — massive, really — it doesn’t make a lot of sense to partner with a rival on it.
Probably knowing this, Tilenius was sure to follow up with the big stats. In the past six months, Android is the leading mobile operating system, she noted. They have 50 percent of the market now. She reiterated that Google is making a huge bet on NFC and they’re willing to work with any partner on this.
We’ll see what those potential partners have to say…
Update: But there may be another way. While Google only mentioned it in passing, apparently, there will be a sticker that can be applied to any device (on the back or where ever a customer wanted to put it) that can hold the information for one card. This sticker, when tapped on an NFC device, then works with Google’s cloud and an app on your phone to handle payments.
In other words, if the other players were willing to accept a Google Wallet app on their devices, a somewhat limited (again, one card) version of this system could work pretty easily without hardware modification. Next question: would Apple approve such an app?
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