I sat in on a venture capital panel at earlier this month at eBay’s DevCon at San Jose headquarters. Below are some highlights.
Here’s the panel:
Sergio Monsalve, Partner, Northwest Venture Partners
Rob Hayes, Partner, First Round Capital
Ravi Mohan, Managing Director, Shasta Ventures
Mark Gorenberg, Managing Director, Hummer Winblad
(The questions were asked by Moderator Charline Li, Founder of Altimeter Group)
Where do you see the new opportunities to invest your venture capital?
Mark: We see four trends:
Ravi: The word is commerce. Not just e-commerce. Where do people want to buy?
I believe the mobile device is the platform to bring that together.
The second thing is that everything that is happening in the offline world, is increasingly happening in the online world.
Rob: One of the themes we invest in is the Implicit Web. People don’t really care where they buy things from. If I can reach into ebay though an API, Amazon through an API, etc…where can I put all this data together to tap into all this?
E-commerce used to be about getting the best price. Now it’s more about getting the best experience.
That’s why we’re invested in BazaarVoice— Companies have to get used to people saying bad things about them online (even on their own Web site).
Sergio: There’s a trend of big companies working with small companies.
I think we’re in the third inning of e-commerce. It’s now that the incumbents (big companies like eBay) are starting to reach out with small companies to have symbiotic relationships.
We’re seeing a lot agencies investing with us.
How does an entrepreneur get venture capital funding
Rob: If it’s a really good idea in a really big market with a really good team (and can they pivot when things don’t go exactly according to plan).
Mark: I think you’d be surprised at how many of us fund things that really early. We funded Ace Metrix even though we’d never met them. They had really done their homework.
Ravi: There are a lot of great business ideas…as entrepreneurs you have to really look at the market size and how disruptive your idea is.
Sergio: The question of pivoting is important to underline. I see innovation…as continuous innovation throughout the life of a company. If you look at a company like RackSpace (now a $1.5 Bil. market cap) the defining moment was not when they started the company…it was in 2001 during the meltdown.
Look at Qumranet (a year before selling to Red Hat) they completely scratched their plan. The market wasn’t there…so they were able to pivot the company and then get sold a year later (for $107MM).
When’s a good time for an entrepreneur to look for venture capital funding?
Mark: With Arbor Software — we talked to them when they were really young…we worked together for six months and we funded the company six months later.
Ravi — Plastic Jungle (an online exchange for gift cards) — we met with them last summer and it was a complete offline business. We began looking at the vision and what this could be.
Gary Briggs (eBay’s ex CMO) was an advisor and we started to look at it together. The whole process took seven to eight months. During that time we helped expand the vision of the company and bring in additional team members.
What are some alternatives to venture capital funding?
Mark: Bootstrapping is natural. The lines between angel and venture firms has really blurred. Angels have seen 30% to 40% of their net worth go away. As a result, we (VCs) are seeing entrepreneurs earlier.
What do you think about exit scenarios (liquidity events) for startups these days?
Ravi: You need to build a business that is worth something. I’m thinking of a business that will reach $100MM and is growing 20% to 30% with EBIDTA of 20% to 30%…and then apply 10 to 30 cash flow multiple.
If there is no exit, then we may end up dividending the cash to management and investors. Or sell to private equity firms.
Rob: I believe that we’re going to see a lot of exits between $50MM and $100MM. So, if you’re going for the billion dollar company exit, you should be talking to venture capitalists.
An entrepreneur with a $50 million exit could be taking care of their great grandchildren.
Ravi: Rob and I are invested in a company called Outright, a free accounting service — everything that a small business doesn’t want to do. One of our target markets is ebay sellers.
Now we’re going to roll Outright out on ebay Selling Manager in August or September.
Would you invest in a company that has done a DPO (Direct Public Offering)?
Mark: We tend to shy away from that. We like clean paperwork…private stock only.
What’s the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make?
Rob: Not taking enough money. Entrepreneurs get so tied up in the dilution math. It’s the most painful thing.
Mark: Entrepreneurs saying they have no competition. That’s indicative of not doing enough homework.
Ravi: It’s market size. Just being intellectually honest about the market size is important.
Sergio: There’s a balance between optimism and being intellectually honest that is needed.
I sat in on a talk that eBay’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Manager Dennis Goedegebuure gave at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose earlier this month.
I got to chat with Dennis and he’s both smart and interesting — away from eBay he blogs about poetry, tips on San Francisco (in Dutch) and a favorite topic of mine: Black Coffee.
Note: Just to be clear, even though this was an eBay SEO specialist presenting his tips are not focused on eBay Store SEO or any other SEO for eBay Web pages.
While Dennis was through most of his presentation, I realized that he was going to make the slides available online — They are located here: Dennis Goedegebuure on SEO at eBay DecCon09.
I decided to go ahead and include my notes (below) as there were some comments Dennis and attendees made that are not in the slides — I encourage you to look at both!
Ok, on to my notes:
Dennis’s Definition of SEO
Those sound like things you want?
Here are some SEO tips, tricks and topics:
First and foremost, Dennis recommends that you make sure that your product is worth talking about; if you don’t, no person will link to you or visit your site or install your application.
Read the Search Engine Webmaster Guidelines
Dennis adds that you can learn a lot from what the search engines give you…the top search engines have documentation so you should read it… such as Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Google Universal Search: Threat or Opportunity?
Google and other search engines have moved more towards images, video and news — what we call Universal Search.
This is a threat — if you are just text-based…yet this is also a great opportunity to rank higher since there are fewer businesses that have images right now.
Through structured meta data the presentation of your site can be enhanced. Two tools on this are Yahoo Search Monkey or Google Rich Snippets.
Microformats.org is a great resource for how to code, present, etc. better for search engines to have better display — you won’t rank better but your appearance will be better.
How Do Search Engines Work?
Search engines have crawlers crawling links to discover your content.
If your content is not linked to (hidden in java script or flash) it can not be easily discovered. Crawlers will look at your Link Structure.
Search engines download html content of the page and store it in their database. As they perform this Site Index, only extractable content is stored.
Then, search engines rank it. Here are keys to their ranking (in no particular order):
How Do I Get Google To Index My Site?
To get into the Google Site Index, or other website indexing, you simply have to publish your content onto Web pages and then link to it from somewhere. Google site indexing can be done as fast as just couple of minutes or many weeks depending on the type of Web site you have (note: Google indexes blogs more frequently than other Web sites).
Taking Your “LUMPS”
LUMP stands for Links, URL Structure, Meta Content, Page Content, SiteMap. Here are some
Search engines discover you through links. It also helps with relevancy.
For example, Adobe Reader is ranked for “click here” (because its Anchor Text reads: “If you don’t have Adobe Reader, click here”
Google was the first to do a link-based algorithm based primarily on:
Four other important Link-related tips to keep in mind:
Meta tags are HTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a web page. Make sure all of your pages have a unique page title with the keywords you want to focus on.
Page Content & Elements
Image Search Optimization
For one of MR. Goedegebuure’s sites, 50% of his traffic is coming from image search.
Use Semantic HTML
If you would like to have one thing emphasized, use an h1 and only one h1 per page.
Three main factors
If you do those three best practices, you will rank pretty well.
SiteMaps Continued: HTML SiteMap
Build an HTML sitemap with all links on your site for users and for search engines.
Keep your number of links to 50 or fewer because Google Sitemaps frowns upon anything more than that.
Four free tools
Dennis recommends the following tools:
…to help you to:
2) Free Firefox plug-in toolbar
You can use this to see what’s searched more: singular or plural keywords.
4) Microsoft Advertising Intellgence Plug-In
It provides trending data for keywords, Cost Per Clicks, demographic data and real data from bing.com.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Dennis!
If you found this posting valuable, you may want to check out my Got Google Juice? item.
There have been numerous financial crises in our world’s history but the financial meltdown of 2007-2008 will certainly be remembered in the history books.
A clever man named Jason Witt has compiled a list of the 52 key players in the financial crisis.
Why 52, you might ask? Well, to put them on the faces of a deck of cards of course.
Witt, from my neighboring town San Ramon, California, is emulating the success of other Most Wanted Playing Cards such as the Iraq Most Wanted.
I spoke to Jason and he’s a good guy — If you’d like to buy a deck, you can do so here: Financial Crisis Cards.
While this isn’t meant to be a financial crisis blog, I am into business, the media and Wall Street…so I couldn’t wait to order a pack of these for myself and one other for my good buddy Larry the Wall Street Recruiter (Jason says that most people are like me: They’re buying 2 to 3 packs each).
And for those who can’t wait to see who “made the deck,” below is a list of the players that Jason was kind enough to email me. He told me he felt bad about putting Obama in the deck but that he believes that half the country thinks Obama is to blame for the financial crisis.
Without further adou, here are the men Witt thinks made financial crisis history.
Ace: Bernard Madoff, Chairman, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities
2: Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (WILD CARD)
3: Martin Sullivan, ex-CEO, AIG
4: James Lockhart, Director, Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight
5: Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, Blackstone Group
6: Stephen Joynt, President, Fitch Ratings
7: Herb Sandler, ex-CEO, Golden West Financial Corp.
8: Vikram Pandit, CEO, Citigroup
9: James “Jimmy”Cayne, ex-CEO, Bear Stearns
10: Timothy Geithner, Secretary, U.S. Department of Treasury
Jack: Christopher Cox, ex-Chairman, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Queen: Deven Sharma, President, Standard and Poor’s
King: Alan Greenspan, ex-Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve
Ace. George Bush, President of the United States (2000-2008)
2: Jeffrey Immelt, CEO, General Electric
3: Bill Miller, Chairman, Legg Mason Capital Management
4: Ronald Logue, CEO, State Street Corporation
5: John Paulson, President, Paulson & Co.
6: Neel Kashkari, Assistant Treasury Secretary, U.S. Department of Treasury
7: Sheila Bair, Chairman, U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
8: Jamie Dimon, CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
9: Rick Wagoner, CEO, General Motors
10: Alphonso Jackson, ex-Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, (HUD)
Jack: Hank Paulson, ex-Secretary, U.S. Department of Treasury
Queen: Barney Frank, Chairman, House Financial Services Committee
King: Ken Lewis, CEO, Bank of America
Ace: Ben Bernake, Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve
2: Michael Perry, ex-CEO, IndyMac Bank
3: John Stumpf, CEO, Wells Fargo
4: Christopher Dodd, U.S. Senate, Chairman Senate Committee on Banking
5: Allen Stanford, Chairman, Stanford Financial Group
6: Alan Mulally, CEO, Ford Motor Company
7: Kerry Killinger, ex-CEO, Washington Mutual
8: Charles “Chuck” Prince, ex-CEO, Citigroup
9: Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs
10: Phil Gramm, U.S. Senate, ex- Chairman Senate Committee on Banking
Jack: John Thain, ex-CEO, Merrill Lynch
Queen: Jerome Kerviel, Trader, Societe Generale
King: Daniel Mudd, ex-CEO, Fannie Mae
Ace: Jim Cramer, TV Host/Author, CNBC
2: Richard Syron, ex-CEO, Freddie Mac
3: Robert Toll, CEO, Toll Brothers Inc.
4: Ken Thompson, ex-CEO, Wachovia Corporation
5: Stanley O’Neal, ex-CEO, Merrill Lynch
6: Robert Nardelli, CEO, Chrysler
7: Robert Kelly, CEO, Bank of New York Mellon
8: Barack Obama, President of the United States (2008- )
9: Raymond McDaniel, President, Moody’s Corporation
10: John Mack, CEO, Morgan Stanley
Jack: David Lereah, ex-Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors (NAR)
Queen: Angelo Mozilo, ex-CEO, Countrywide Financial
King: Richard “Dick” Fuld, ex-CEO, Lehman Brothers
If you like Financial Crisis Cards, you may also be interesting in buying the Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards and America’s Most Wanted Playing Cards.
Disclaimer: I do earn commissions off of products mentioned in this blog.
A very insightful man named John Hagel III spoke to a couple of hundred developers at eBay’s DevCon 09 gathering at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose last week.
I attended (even though I’m not a developer) and luckily Hagel’s talk was not technical!
Some of you may know John Hagel from his book Net Gain, which discusses how online networks have shifted the power in goods and services. He also runs The Center for the Edge in Silicon Valley.
Mr. Hagel’s topic last week was “Shaping Markets”
By Shapers, Mr. Hagel is referring to companies that transform a market sector. His Shaping examples included the following:
The Three Elements to Being a Shaper
Hagel says that a Shaper must have three things:
1) A Shaping View
An example of a shaping view is Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates’ message in the early 1980s that is summarized: “Computing power is inexorably moving from mainframes to desktop. If you want to be a leader in the computing industry, you have to be a leader in the desktop.”
At the time, the mainframe (IBM) and minicomputer (DEC) guys were discounting the personal computer.
Gates’ Shaping View galvanized small companies to invest in his vision of a “Computer on every desktop.”
A more recent example of a shaping view is Salesforce.com’s Founder Marc Benioff’s Shaping View that companies could reduce their technology expense if they used software through network services (as opposed to software packages installed within each company).
In short, Gates and Benioff are saying: “The future is over here — this is where you ought to invest…and there are real rewards associated with it.”
2) A Shaping Platform
Mr. Hagel explains that to be a “Shaper” you also need a platform that offer one of two types of leverage:
A) Development Leverage — A technology such as the force.com technology from Salesforce.com or Facebook’s Application Development Tools that reduces the investment required to build and deliver products or services.
B) Interaction Leverage — A set of protocols and practices to facilitate interaction. Google AdSense is a good example of this as it allows a connection between advertisers, content providers and consumers.
3) Shaping Acts & Assets
Mr. Hagel says that a Shaper must demonstrate conviction, capability as well as assurance to other participants in the industry that it will not compete with them.
His best example here was Novell, the computer networking company that sold off its hardware business to concentrate on its local area networking operating system. That was a bold move that signaled to others in the industry that Novell was serious about focusing on a network operating system — their dominance of that industry soon followed.
Another example: Malcolm McLean released his patents for the four-corner fittings and twist-lock mechanisms royalty-free to the International Organization for Standardization
Incentives are Important
There is also the question of how do you motivate people through positive rewards as opposed to negative rewards.
Clay Shirken, for example, believes in negative rewards — your company will go out of business if you don’t act.
Mr. Hagel seems to lean more towards positive incentives — He recommends shifting perceptions of risk and reward.
Crisis is an Opportunity
During crisis, we magnify risk and minimize reward. That’s an opportunity for a shaper is to come in and flip that.
You should magnify perception of reward and discount the perception of risk. If you do that you can motivate people to make investments around your strategy, you can reshape entire markets or industries.
Shapers Can Start off Small (even within other platforms)
You don’t need to be a large company to be a shaper. Visa at one point was a no-name startup. Malcolm McLean was a trucker from Arkansas.
Startups can be very successful shapers if they mobilize the three elements above — Shaping View, Shaping Platform and Shaping Acts and Assets — together.
Facebook is a current shaper. There are also opportunities to be shapers within an ecosystem — a company called Social Media Networks is creating a platform for Facebook to help faciliate aedvertising revnenue. It’s a shaping play within the broader Facebook ecosystem.
Making Money Even If You’re Not a Shaper
Here are some key lessons for you to make money in these shaping strategies even if you’re not the Shaper.
1) Be Acute in measuring a Shaper’s capabilities and potential for success. You ought to be comfortable that that Shaper is going to pull it off.
2) You’ve got to be clear about what niche you’re operating in…and what’s truly distinctive that insulates you from the rest of the participants.
3) Leverage Skills — You have to think about who else is out there in the ecosystem to take full advantage of the ecosystem. Who are those people and how to I build those relationships so that we all gain value from the shaping strategy.
4) Ultimately, the power of these shaping strategies is that you are able to learn faster. How do you learn from the experience of everyone else (not just your own experience)…and how do you adapt for your own sake.
The core message: not everyone is going to be a shaper. But more and more markets will be shaped over time.
The key question: do you want to be a shaper…or do you want to be shaped? You can make a lot of money either way. But you have to understand the rules of the game in order to succeed.
In late 2007 I was introduced to “Coach Terry,” a phone-based life coach.
I was dubious about the phone-only part but I gave it a shot for a few months and learned a ton.
The most important thing I learned from Terry was the importance of having a statement of purpose for anything substantial in my life (you can find a sample statement of purpose below).
I began writing a statement of purpose for my life, my business, my role in business, a holiday trip, my romantic relationship or even just my plan for a day.
I’ve found it useful to constantly be asking myself what the purpose of something I’m doing is, or when people ask me to do something or say they are doing something, I ask them: “What is the purpose of that?”
Be purposeful about all things in your life…and you’ll find that the outcome is more favorable.
So, here’s how to write a statement of purpose along with some purpose statement tips:
1) List Your Expectations
Write down all the expectations you have about your purpose related to a certain topic (e.g. your life, job, relationship with someone, etc.) on the left-hand side of the page.
Examples of expectations are wants, needs and even fears — for example, if you’re writing a purpose statement about a job you should be answering the following questions:
What do I really want my job to be?
What do I really need in my job?
What fears do I have about my job?
Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes on this part…and really open up!
You should now have at least 7 to 10 expectations — and they will probably be centered around a few topics or themes (e.g. for a job, it might be to make money, have fun, have a flexible schedule, etc.)
2) Purpose Statement
Now, fresh from writing out those expectations, immediately write down one long sentence that starts with “The purpose of my __________ is to …” and the rest of the statement should flow pretty naturally (hint: if you have any challenge here, take your Expectations and group them into a few topics or themes and use those as your purpose statement).
Writing a purpose statement is that easy!
You now have the beginnings of the purpose statement — you can refine this now or later (if you’re like me, you’ll find that you remember new wants, needs and fears later on — so just add them in and iterate).
3) Bonus Round: Write “I Will” Statements
If you want to take this thing one step further, return to the expectations and to the right of each of them write down an “I will” statement.
The “I will” statement should be something actionable that you could do to be more purposeful.
Try to make each “I will” statement specific, measureable, actionable and timely.
Don’t worry about ever doing such things — this isn’t a to-do list — just write it down!
The act of merely writing them down will make you more mindful of your purpose.
I promise you that if you do this exercise, you will be more purposeful on whatever the topic.
So, now you have a purpose statement (remember, you can refine it all you want) and even some actions that you can take (I sometimes DO treat it like a to-do list by printing it out and doing some of the actions immediately)
Samples of Purpose Statements
Here are some sample purpose statements I’ve written:
Life Purpose Statement — My life purpose is to smile most of the time, develop myself constantly to find my greatness, be productive the vast majority of the time, give plenty to others and to have a positive vibration on the planet.
Purpose Statement For Layoffs I Had To Make — The purpose of our layoffs is to be able to execute the plan on a timely basis, to be respected in the execution and to protect the jobs of productive people
Business Purpose Statement — The purpose of our business is to have fun, help people and make a little money.
Purpose Statement For My Job — The purpose of my job is to make money, meet only with people I love and respect, work on things I enjoy and provide a flexible schedule to take care of the primary choices in my life. Check out 3 Easy Steps To Write A Purpose Statement For Your Next Job.
Purpose Statement For A New Management Meeting I Had To Start (see my Daily Huddle Article) — The purpose of the daily huddle meeting is to align the management team and to increase the speed of our growth.
Purpose Statement for My Wife — The purpose of the relationship with my life-mate is to have a passionate, healthy and positive relationship — while still enjoying some vices! — that leads to a larger family with children I adore.
I also highly recommend you check out this How To Write A Purpose Statement article by Steve Pavlina.
That lead to the following life purpose statement by Mr. Pavlina: To live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.
Enjoy being purposeful!
When you are in conflict- or crisis-mode, the tendency is to get emotionally charged and that sometimes leads to folks taking actions that are unhealthy for the business.
Here are four steps that I adopted from the University of Maryland’s Leadership Program to deal with communicating during crisis or conflict:
1) Separate the People from the Problem
A good communication about conflict should focus on the underlying problem (not the person).
” We just discovered that we did not ship out products to certain customers over the last 10 days and now sales will be down 16% this month” (good)
“George (in Shipping) slipped up and forgot to confirm that our shipping facility received our go-ahead to ship products out this month…and our sales are plummeting” (bad)
If you indeed do have a person-problem, then deal with the problem as a relationship problem by talking directly to the person you have a problem with (i.e. George)
2) Generate a Variety of Possible Solutions before Deciding What to Do
Don’t assume there is just one solution.
“After discussing this with all of you, we have two potential solutions:
And it doesn’t have to be your solution versus your team’s solution.
3) Insist That Results Be Based On Some Objective Standard.
That way, you and your team can measure how you get out of the crisis/conflict.
And if you’re involved in a conflict and feeling angry about it, this Chinese Proverb has proven invaluable to many people:
“Never write when you’re angry.”
It’s better to pause, collect your thoughts first and even talk to a colleague if you can…then start writing when you’re more calm.
Your communication will now be more effective.
The purpose of Purchase.com is to help businesses grow, profit and organize.
And I’m noticing a lot of Classifieds-related searches on Google lately, such as the following list from April 2009 (the parentheses are an estimate of the monthly searches):
That’s a lot of searches!
People seem thirstier than ever for the ability to post classified ads (perhaps due to the economy) — and they usually prefer that they are free.
New Place to Post and Search Free Classifieds
Towards that end, I employed a friend of mine to help create a simple free business classifieds application that allows anyone with an email address to post a product or service for sale.
To post a free business classified, you simply go to the home page Purchase.com or specifically to Add a Free Business Classified.
Other classified Web sites, such as Craigslist (which I’m a big fan of), allow you to post most classified ads for free; however, Purchase.com plans to differentiate from them.
Such difference might include focusing on business to business classifieds, small business classifieds, free local classifieds and some other items (more on that later).
For now, go experiment with your free classified ad posting on Purchase.com — you can do it in just a few minutes.
We have kept the design very simple so please be forgive its ugliness…but the functionality should work.
And, as always I’d really like to hear what you think.