- Google Reminds You That Today Is Father’s Day (And You Can Call Dad From Gmail)
- 4 The Lulz
- The Ribman’s Response To Groupon Bashing
- New Health-Focused Startup Accelerator Rock Health Debuts Inaugural Batch
- Mark Suster: Raise Money Now So When The Party’s Over You’re Sitting Pretty
- Is The World Crazy For Bitcoin, Or Has The Bitcoin World Gone Crazy?
- Web Of Games
- My Angel Investor Checklist
Posted: 19 Jun 2011 09:11 AM PDT
If you click on the message, you are taken to a page that shows you how you can call your Dad for free (in the U.S. and Canada) from Gmail. Google has even added a note in your Gmail chat roster, right under the "Call phone" link, to remind users to call their Dad.
Google launched Gmail Calling last August as a simple way for email client users to make free calls within their browser. Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click "Call phone" at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact's name. And the quality is pretty good and calls are free thanks to Google extending the offer of free calls in the U.S. and Canada through December.
While Google did create a special Doodle and tribute page for Mother’s Day this year, it did not promote one of Google’s products.
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 10:09 PM PDT
Editor’s note: Aaron Crayford is the CEO of Mighty whose main product is a smart real-time communication framework. While in high school was prosecuted by the US government for what the DoD called "The most organized systematic attack the Pentagon has seen" and was banned from touching a computer or talking about the story for a decade. You can follow him @aaroncray.
Heroes, hackers or douchebags? I've seen many takes. Mine goes something like:
FBI agent: "Tell us how you got into the satellite control systems at Lawrence Livermore."
Kid: "You wanna know, (whisper) you really want to know?"
FBI agent: "yeah tell me"
FBI agent: "this isn't a fucking game kid!”
Game on! It was 1998 when 20 FBI agents raided my house. The awkward fat kid with working class folks in the corner of your physics class . . . that was me. But what about the LulzSec guys and these Anonymous members? Who are these guys? What the hell are they doing screwing with the cia…THE CIA!? They are revolutionary's friends. The Washingtons of our times. Their guns are botnets 500gigabit/s strong, and their spies are automated entry system worms and rootkits. They're taking out injustice one root at a time . . . right?
I knew I wasn't going to jail and I knew that I had a great excuse for not handing in my chem homework.
Kid: "I was being interrogated by the FBI all night, I didn't have time"
Teach: "Aaron go back to your seat. That's the stupidest excuse I've ever heard"
(Did I just say I knew I wasn't going to jail?) That's the mind frame folks. Criminals never see themselves as criminals simply because of how subjective that word is. Even to this day if you were to ask me what I was doing, I'd focus on the fact that we took down pedophile porn ISP's, patched thousands of compromised government systems and turned hate monger websites into Happy Hanukkah pages . . . for the lulz. Noob, leet, lulz we used those terms before square bears on Facebook and game networks did and they were just as funny then as they are now.
FBI agent:"Look asshole, you guys leveled Sweden with your bullshit"
Happens sometimes. One group comes to test another group…war…WAR! Right? It's more like scrabble than devastating economies; barely mentionable in passing the next day. You rooted your friends system, you laugh, and that's it. It's hard to understand the impact of what taking down a site like Ebay, Facebook or Sony does. Lulz thinks it's funny; hell it is pretty funny but the unfortunate fact is at the end of the day workers are hurt and the CEO of Sony still gets in a Maybach and is driven to his mansion. They even call him Sir. Knighthood for someone who strikes at the heart of innovation, at the guy in the garage.
So what is it? What makes these guys do this stuff? They must be evil, they must be huge assholes, they must be geniuses? Maybe. One thing is for certain they understand how to bypass systems of control much better than the techs at Sony. Think of it like this: imagine if, given enough time, you could break into anything or type a command and stop any website in the world from working. What would you do? The hard part of this isn't figuring out what you would do (in case that's what you were just doing). I'm not talking about a Harvard dropout patting you on the back and telling you you're a hard worker because you wrote some php script or you're in "The Harvard of Silicon Valley" (careful fackers bunnies bite). I'm talking about writing down a piece of code, an exploit no one's ever seen, on a bar napkin while you're intoxicated; when you try it later, it compiles and executes perfectly, proving you understand an extremely complicated system better than its creator. The hard part is obtaining that kind of skill and the guys that do never do it with the intention of breaking into places. The application of what you can do with that kind of skill is an after thought. So once you have the skill you hear a story about some innovative smart guy . . .
The guy in the garage. A guy like you;
who reversed engineered a game console . . .
because he bought and owned the game console . . .
and thought he should be able to do with it what he wants . . .
like most normal people would think.
There you go. The company that tries to tear that man down and the ideal of innovation just volunteered for your hell, your wrath. The bully is going down! That's how they see it. Even though the reality is the FBI or CIA agent that will be tracking you down over the next few months/years doesn't get paid squat and what drives him is the same thing that drives you; they think what they are doing is justice. The workers that get laid off from the game network because it went down are just 0.1% of the company (up to 10% is acceptable to the guys on Wall Street without much concern . . . considered "leaning out") and Sir Howard won’t lose a minute of sleep in his big comfortable king sized bed in his mansion on the hill.
What Lulzsec and Anonymous don't realize is these companies aren't their enemies. Their exploits are shockingly funny and probably karma but there is a much more difficult system to hack . . . becoming the guy at the head of the board. So when you're the 40-something-year-old CEO who hears that some kid, some guy in his garage, is tearing your product apart and doing amazing things with it that is hitting your top line revenue, and the VP of Operations is getting the legal team together to discuss your options; you stop the meeting and say "Go find that guy, pay him and lets see what he can do." That's a real hack worth touting and it ends with you sleeping in a king-sized bed in a mansion on the hill and few can claim it's been done before.
Not many, if any, of the people I know from back then made it big in tech. The ones that stayed in security disappeared, working for people I'm too scared to ask about.
So happy hacking. I hope you leverage your skill to your advantage. Stay safe and don't get caught. If you do and they ask how you did it simply reply, "magic."
Photo credit: Anonymous9000
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 09:31 PM PDT
I've been reading a lot of stories on TechCrunch lately coming down hard on Groupon and, like other happy Groupon merchants, wasn't going to comment because I thought it was a single story with one author's thoughts. However, after seeing story after story trying to pick apart every single piece of Groupon, I felt it necessary to write about my experience. I'm also hoping that I'm the first BBQ restaurant owner who to write for TechCrunch.
I had tried almost every other form of advertising in the past with varying degrees of success. Then our Groupon sales rep contacted me. I had heard about similar deals before and had turned down the offers. However, Groupon offered me something different. At the time, there were 86,000 people signed up for Richmond's Groupon list (many more now). After she explained the details, how everything worked and what to expect, I ran the numbers on the discount and wanted to give it a try. There is no better way to get almost 90,000 unique impressions for so little cost. We ran our first deal in December of 2010 and sold 1,184 Groupons.
Let me say this loud and clear—for my business Groupon has worked incredibly well. The first deal I ran was $10 for $20 worth of food and drink. I was told to expect nearly a thousand deals sold and was pleasantly surprised that we sold nearly 1,200. Of those 1,200 customers, we found that 70% of them were new customers, a great average right off the bat. Of those 800+ new customers, we have seen more than half of them return. Also, let's not forget all the people who came into my restaurant in the weeks following the Groupon deal and told me that they saw my business on Groupon, missed the deal, but still came anyway because they wanted to try out a new restaurant. That kind of exposure for a small business is invaluable! We were seen by tens of thousands of potential customers in our area and that didn't cost a dime!
Now, back to the Groupon customers. We tracked every Groupon redemption on our point of sale (POS) system and found that only a handful (literally five or six), had a ticket total that was under the price of the Groupon ($20). We found that customers, on average, spent at least $12 on top of the price of the Groupon, and that was before they came back and paid full price (most more than once). And this is at a BBQ restaurant! One consistent factor has been that Groupon customers are much more likely to add an appetizer or dessert to their check, since they know the first $20 only cost them $10. This has been a wonderful way to not only up the ticket average on the redemption, but also has given the customers a broader taste of our menu. When they come back without the Groupon, they are more likely to order that extra item again. Also, I found Groupon customers to be better than the average "coupon" customer. These are people that were interested in trying a new restaurant and open to the idea of coming back. There was only a small percentage of guests who were just looking for a bargain.
Another number that I track, which many other restaurants do not, is what my employees claimed on tips. It gives me a good idea of the overall traffic in my restaurant and how confident my customers are with the economy. From my experiences over the past 29 years in the industry, when the economy is rough, tips are one of the first things to take a hit. During the first quarter of 2011 my employees claimed over $4,000 more in tips than the same period in 2010. This was during the first three months of our redemption period and was by far the highest volume of Groupons. It is indisputable that Groupon brought the vast majority of these customers to our door. Groupon customers were some of our best tippers and nearly always, almost without fault, tipped on the total bill, not the discounted check.
One of the best reasons I found to use Groupon is that it's trackable. Buying a newspaper ad doesn't allow you to see who's coming in as a result. With Groupon, you can see your marketing dollars at work and have the chance to convert Groupon customers to regulars, something we've done a lot. My employees were thrilled when we ran the deal because we were always busy and that's a good thing. Our bottom line has been raised significantly and I owe a lot of that to Groupon.
Please don't dismiss this story as an anomaly. I have recommended Groupon to other small business owners, some of whom have run deals with Groupon and done very well (Havana Connections in Richmond for one). The positive stories are out there in abundance, even though we may not yell as loud or as frequently as others.
Will everyone succeed using Groupon? Probably not. As a business owner, I feel like it's my responsibility to look at this marketing tool and see if it works for my business. There is no question that it has paid for itself better than any other advertising medium we have ever used. The Groupon sales reps have been extremely helpful in telling me what to expect and how to prepare as well. For me, and, I suspect many other small business owners, this is a no brainer. For the money I spent on the discount, not only was I able to get my message out to almost 90,000 separate individuals, but I was easily able to capitalize on this and turn many of the guests into regular customers. Where else can a small business get that kind of marketing access? The simple answer is nowhere.
I am now running my second Groupon deal, and launched it on the exact day that the first offer expired. We sold over 1730 Groupons, even more than the first time.
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 08:45 PM PDT
If the numbers shared by Gigaom in this infographic are any indication, Venture funding has stormed back to where it was before the financial collapse in 2008. The amount of capital invested is on the rise, and the current climate is providing an excellent opportunity for startups looking to raise money. GRP Partner Mark Suster confirmed as much at his talk at the Founder Institute this week, in which he urged startups to raise in the current “frothy market” — especially ahead of a potential bursting bubble.
Though the market is indeed frothy: Venture funding in the Web grew by over $1 billion from the first quarter last year. Yet, of all the digital areas in which startups are raising the most money, health and medical-related investment is on the low end, receiving only 3 percent of venture funding over the last year. (Compared to social commerce which led at 22 percent and advertising, sales, and marketing, which came in at 14 percent.)
A new seed accelerator that launched earlier this year called Rock Health, is hoping to break that trend in favor of health-related mobile and web startups. Though health care only continues to advance thanks to technology, human health remains on the decline and related health costs are increasing. In fact, Americans spent $2.4 trillion on health care in 2008, despite having lower patient outcomes than comparable nations.
Thus, Rock Health has designed a program, not unlike Y Combinator, Tech Stars, and those before it, that accepts applications from startups during a month-long period, before undergoing evaluation by a panel of health experts and investors. The panel than selects 10 startups to enter into a five-month program that includes a $20K grant, office space in San Francisco, medical, branding, communications, and legal support — as well as mentoring and workshops given by experts in the industry.
Rock Health’s mentors include Path CEO and early member of the Facebook team Dave Morin, co-founder and EVP at RedOctane Charles Huang, and former FDA Deputy Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. And the program’s advisors include, among others, Twitter VP of Engineering Michael Abbott, co-founder of 23andMe Linda Avey, and founder and CEO of HealthTap and former founder and CEO of Wellsphere Ron Gutman. Besides an impressive list of advisors and mentors, Rock Health has also partnered with leading hospitals, like the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and Cincinnati Children's Hospital in an attempt to give its startups a leg up in building their businesses — and a better shot at funding down the road.
On June 20, the program’s inaugural batch of ten will begin the program. Below is a brief introduction to the eight of these cool health startups ready for preview. Check ‘em out, and please chime in to let us know what you think.
CellScope builds systems for at-home disease diagnosis using smartphone cameras connected to a web platform. The company is piloting a smartphone attachment for at-home diagnosis of pediatric ear infections, which cause 30 million doctor visits annually in the US.
Genomera seeks to heal the world through personal health collaboration, connecting communities of people solving similar problems. The first product is a platform for crowd-sourced health science, enabling consumers to operate open health studies.
By creating the first transparent marketplace for healthcare, HealthInReach is making quality care more affordable and accessible. Patients who pay out-ofpocket medical costs can learn about doctors and dentists based on experience, reputation and procedure prices, and schedule in confidence at pre-negotiated group discount rates.
Omada Health will be among the first to apply the principles of social networking to the legitimate clinical treatment of a disease. Recently spun out of IDEO, we are creating a type 2 diabetes prevention solution that emphasizes community, education, and metrics. Progress will be tracked using novel connected-health technologies that will serve both as motivation for patients and as validation of outcomes.
Pipette allows doctors to monitor and educate patients throughout the course of their care using smartphones and tablets, helping to improve recovery and outcomes, and identify opportunities for proactive and preventative care. Pipette's easy-to-read reports automatically identify patterns and outliers that can be critical to improving a patient's health.
Skimble powers the mobile health & fitness movement through a platform of fun and interactive applications. Two top free Healthcare & Fitness titles that help motivate people to get and stay active are Workout Trainer (for iPhone/iPad), providing follow along multimedia workouts lead by real & virtual trainers, and GPS Sports Tracker (for iPhone and Android), enabling people to track & share over 45 different activities.
WeSprout is exploring the connection between health data and community. Soon, parents will be able to find relevant resources faster than ever and make better choices for their children's health, supported by a community of parents who have been there before.
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 03:03 PM PDT
Earlier this week GRP Parter VC and VC blogger Mark Suster gave the keynote talk at the Founder Institute’s Founder’s Showcase on “Getting Funded In A Frothy Market.” Suster began the keynote with the declarative statement that we’re in a bubble, “We're in a bubble, you can quote me on that and I generally haven't been saying that publicly,” he affirmed.
Suster went on to refer to the uniqueness of this particular period of exuberance, in that it’s localized, “If you’re in Cleveland, Ohio you don’t particularly feel like there’s a bubble,” but right now the usual 3-5 months it takes to raise capital have been distilled down to 3-5 days for startups in Silicon Valley, New York and L.A.
Suster urges these startups to raise money now, so they can survive when the bubble inevitably pops, “When the party’s over the party’s over” he went on, urging entrepreneurs to start raising… “when the Hors d’œuvre tray is passed around take two, and put a third in your pocket,” likening the market froth to a hopping party where everybody is drunk, off of their own Kool Aid in many cases.
Having lived through three previous cycles, Suster knows how the party will end (with a hangover for most), and relays his key takeaway which basically amounts to stocking up on supplies for the winter — So you can live to tell the tale:
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 10:29 AM PDT
I last wrote about Bitcoin less than a month ago. (If you’re one of the people who admitted in comments “I still don’t get it,” here’s a terrific and detailed explainer from The Economist.) Since then the value of Bitcoins has quadrupled—and then halved. The founder of Sweden’s Pirate Party moved all his savings into Bitcoin (which disappoints me; I had hoped they were buried on Oak Island) just as US Senator Charles Schumer attacked it as “an online form of money laundering.” Malware designed to steal Bitcoin wallets has been seen in the wild, and in possibly related news, 25,000 Bitcoins were stolen a few days ago. Meanwhile, the virtual currency’s long-term stability has been seriously questioned … but does it really make any sense to think about any “long term” at all for Bitcoin, given the insane volatility of the last month?
Well, sort of. I concede it does look a bit like the lunatics, black-hats, and bubbleheads have conquered the asylum, but there’s nothing inherently crazy or shady about a distributed online currency. What is kind of crazy is assuming that the first one that comes along will last and retain its value indefinitely, which is what almost everyone investing in Bitcoin is doing. (The rest are hoping to sell out to a greater fool, a strategy which admittedly made a few people wealthy during the South Seas tulip bubble and the dotcom boom, but—pretty much by definition—was a loser for most.) Does Bitcoin have a long-term future? I strongly doubt it … but I expect that something like Bitcoin eventually will.
Right now, though, the fools and crazies are muddying the water, and inspiring somewhat-justified contempt like
or even more cynically,
“Pyramid scheme,” though, is unfair (to both.) Bitcoin is a fairly monumental achievement—but it’s a trailblazer, not a destination. It should be viewed as a springboard for future iterations, but most of the community that all its recent publicity has attracted seems unable to look past the present, and is treating it as either a get-rich-quick scheme or a cypherpunk fantasy come to life. The good news is, in the long run, this is ideal—because the crazier the Bitcoin world gets, the more we can learn from the madness, and the better its successor(s) will be.
Image: biggertree, Flickr.
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 09:18 AM PDT
Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Adam Bosworth, co-founder of Keas, a startup that turns staying healthy into a game. Previously, he spearheaded Google Health, was chief architect at BEA Systems, and one of the fathers of XML.
In the tech industry, it is usually bad to be over 30. I'm 55. But there is one advantage to age, and that's perspective. I witnessed the deep change that PCs brought, enabling technically skilled people to access computing power, call it tens of millions of people. Next was the Graphical User Interface (GUI) which brought productivity applications to most knowledge workers, call it hundreds of millions of people. Then the Web and mobile phones brought access to anyone and any information anywhere at any time, call it billions of people.
I predict that the next inflection point won't be about numbers of users. It will be about engagement.
The tech industry has a neologism: "Gamification." Inside this awkward term are three profound truths:
We used to teach information design. Then we taught UI design and UI interaction. But now it will be game mechanics. Within two years (if not already), lack of understanding appointment mechanics, game mechanics and leveling will be as crippling to someone who aspires to design online solutions as it is today for someone who doesn't understand HTML and CSS and AJAX and JQuery.
For the old world, it's game over.
Photo credit: Daniela Hartmann
Posted: 18 Jun 2011 08:01 AM PDT
Editor's note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book he's giving away free. He built and sold Reset, Inc in 1998 and Stockpickr.com in 2007, among others. You can follow him @jaltucher.
I know through hard experience that I'm one of the dumbest investors I know. Here are two examples: the time I cost Yasser Arafat $2 million (and lost investors another $100 million in the process) and the worst VC decision ever made (of course, it was made by me). Both happened around the same time period (2000-2001) and solidified my reputation in history as possibly the worst investor ever.
However, I learn from my experiences. After a few successful startups following that period (Stockpickr.com notably, which sold to thestreet.com in 2007) I've started to do more angel investing and, in doing so, have figured out a check list to help me avoid my prior mistakes. If you follow this checklist I think you can do well as an angel investor.
Everyone trashes angel investors but angels have one critical edge over VC investors: we don't have to do anything. I don't have to put any money to work ever if I don't want to. I can pass on deals all day long. VCs, because its their job, often have a strong financial incentive to eventually (say, over a 5-year period) put money to work since they take fees on the money that's out there. VCs also have a psychological reason to put money to work. It's their job. So if they are doing a good job they often feel the need (for better or worse) to put money to work.
The Angel Checklist
If you have 1-4 you almost don't have to do anything else. If I'm co-investing with Kleiner Perkins I can usually assume their team of MBAs is hard at work doing all the due diligence for me. But often, to provide an extra layer of safety, I do my own work. And here's the due-diligence checklist. To be honest, this checklist is often more about giving me comfort that I did something intelligent since I don't really expect to uncover anything new, but every now and then something pops up.
Due diligence checklist
Although my general rule of thumb is, I don't want to have any meetings. You know the secret to a quick meeting? No chairs and no donuts. Even quicker? Just use the phone and stay at home. That's my meeting of preference.
With the above checklist I actually think angel investors have a strong edge over "professional" venture capital investors. They have a strong network but good angels have a strong network too (particularly with the rise of companies like AngelList). And if you follow rule No. 1 and piggyback with the best venture capitalists, then it's the best of every world.
And look, the more VCs who make money, the more I will. On top of that, I hope to God we have a pretty strong bubble. Go Groupon!
Photo credit: Alan Cleaver.
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