I needed it and it’s great to be hanging with my family.
But I missed a dinner last night that I wanted to attend. The dates simply didn’t work out.
And that dinner was last night in SF with a group of bloggers that care about consumer products, consumer electronics, personal computing, web services and open source software. Last night Peter told people about his company, Bug Labs which has been in stealth mode for well over a year.
I wish I was at the dinner. I could talk about Bug Labs all day. And I love seeing other people’s creative juices flowing when they first learn about Bug. Dave Winer was there and has two interesting posts here and then a follow up here. Fred has a post as well. I can’t wait to see what user will create with Bug. New apps, new services, new communities. Hardware mashups will be possible. But web services is the best and most important part about Bug.
We invested in Buzzwire (formerly 4th Media) about a year ago. At the time, it was an idea and a vision that Andrew, Ed and Dave had.
They have been operating in stealth mode since then quietly building their technology and service.
Today Buzzwire opened up and decided to share their software and plans with everyone. They have a beta version of their service that allows users to stream audio and video on their mobile phone. You can choose any of the content Buzzwire has aggregated or you can upload your own. Low end and high end phones. And it’s free.
One of my favorite things they added recently is the ability to share content from your phone to your friends phone via SMS. And the person you share with doesn’t have to be a Buzzwire registered user.
We invested in the company for several reasons:
1. Consumers want this stuff and more. 2. It’s hard to do right 3. Killer team
We know consumers want video and audio on-demand on their phone. We were investors in thePlatform that provides software infrastructure for Verizon’s VCAST service. We saw first hand how much consumers want this type of content. And consumers want more. We want choice and control. We want more than the content that someone else chooses for us.
Buzzwire has developed amazing technology that allows the consumer to stream any audio and video content to mobile devices without requiring any special software in the handset. All other solutions require the consumer to have special, proprietary client software. Or they limit the content by size or type. Buzzwire just works. It knows that type of handset the consumer has, it knows what carrier, it knows which network and it makes the content just work. That is a big deal and no one else is making it this simple. They can reach more consumers because we can work with the most diverse set of handsets on any network.
And best of all, this team is just fantastic. I love working with these guys. They are super passionate about what they are doing. They are seasoned, successful entrepreneurs that know how to build great products and great companies. This was the original team that helped create Mobile 1.0 before 3G and with handsets that were pretty weak.
Buzzwire is currently in beta. The user interface is evolving. I saw the upcoming new version and it’s awesome. And while they support the widest range of handsets, Blackberries and a few Verizon phones aren’t compatible at this time.
I’m having a ball with the service. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
And with this anniversary, they have launched two very cool online products
Shark Week Video Mixer: video & audio clips are now available with a web version of an iMovie-like editor. Fans can create their own videos and mix with clips from the show. Putting these tools in the hands of their fans is smart and fun. It’s kind of funny that some of my favorite shows (like this one and this one), in addition to the Discovery Channel, are offering video mashup tools w/content.
Discovery also launched this super fun mobile sweepstakes with excellent prizes - all powered by our portfolio company, SendMe. Give it a try and good luck!
Last year I posted the Free Hugs video to my blog. I thought it was great.
Shortly afterwards, I sent Howard an email suggesting a Wallstrip version of Free Hugs. I think my dopey idea at the time was something like VCs and entrepreneurs hugging each other. I don’t exactly remember.
Howard, Adam and Lindsay had a much better idea. Here is Free Hugs Wallstrip style.
They east coast vs west coast story about consumer start-up companies has been addressed many times.
But for those of us (entrepreneurs and VCs) living in NYC/Boston - we should continue to ask ourselves this question over and over again.
Scott Kirsner, former writer the Boston Globe, spent a few years in SF and just returned to Boston. His article today revisits this topic. He interviews my partner Todd, my good friend Nabeel and others.
Lots of good points made. Scott himself makes this observation upon making his return to MA
"Having just boomeranged back to Cambridge after spending two
years in San Francisco, the lack of consumer tech activity here is
startling to me — it’s like going from a noisy, hot, crowded bar to
another across the street where the bartender has plenty of time to
wash glasses and gab with the three regulars perched on stools."
There are plenty of good points in Scott’s article but I very much disagree with an entrepreneur named Matt Douglas who says:
“The mentality of East Coast investors is ‘Show me revenue first, and then we’ll talk again,’ ” says Douglas.
This couldn’t be farther from the case. I know that almost all of our companies (most of them series a) didn’t have any revenue when we made the initial investment. And we aren’t alone. Union Square Ventures, General Catalyst, Polaris, IDG Ventures, Bessemer, Matrix and others are doing the same. And all of these east coast firms are active locally and yet all of them are investing in the west coast. Pre-revenue is not a show stopper. They/we are just trying to invest in the very best companies. Regardless of their location.
I lived in SF for 10 years. I’ve been in Boston since 2001. I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my career (both coasts) and now I’m an investor. And I believe we do have a cultural problem in the northeast.
Both VCs and entrepreneurs are guilty.
We need to get better. In particular we need to build huge, standalone companies in the northeast. We need more independent, large-scale companies in gaming, consumer web services, consumer products and even consumer electronics.
It’s going to happen. I believe that. I’m seeing super entrepreneurs taking on enormous ideas locally these days. Some are part of portfolio and some aren’t. And I’m super excited about it.
A bunch of friends have asked me how my experiment is going.
As my friends know, I’ve been a die hard blackberry user for awhile. We use Microsoft Exchange at the office and blackberry enterprise server. That trio is like gold. It just works.
But I wanted more. Don’t we all?
For the past week, I’ve been using my iPhone exclusively. The Blackberry Curve has been in my desk drawer at the office. And turned off. Cold turkey.
My experience so far:
1. Screen. Unfucking-believable. Gorgeous. I love having (& showing off) photos of my kids. I watch funny N3 and Wallstrip videos when I’m at the airport or when I’m bored. The screen makes all the difference.
2. WiFi. Apple did WiFi right. The range is better than my MacBook Pro. And set up couldn’t be easier. WiFi combined with the built in browser is a winner. Love Facebook, nytimes and reading blogs on iphone w/wifi. Browsing on iphone on the ATT Edge network is a loser though. I usually don’t do it
3. Keyboard. The keyboard isn’t a blackberry. Not even close. And if I’m ever asked to defend my crown, I will absolutely use a blackberry to avoid getting my ass kicked by fred, howard or any other contender. Yet after just one week my iphone typing skills are getting better. Really. Two tips to become an iphone typing jedi
-hit the keys at a 90 degree angle. this is a must.
-don’t edit any misspellings until you complete the word. The built in dictionary is quite good and will prompt you in a very intuitive way. Similar experience as Blackberry SureType. Finish the word first. always.
4. Telephone. I like the phone features much better on the iphone than my blackberry. It’s easier to hold, dial, mute, redial, hang up, navigate auto-attendent systems, turn ringer on/off etc. Visual voicemail works really well. Pet peeve: phone numbers listed in calendar or email aren’t clickable.
5. SMS. The SMS app on iphone is very cool. Some may disagree but I like that SMS are separate than email (unlike the blackberry). I really like how it keeps threaded messages together. It’s the ultimate Twitter device.
6. Camera. Very easy to use. Photos are a bit nicer than the Curve. Syncs with iPhoto. Easy to upload to flickr via email. Love that. I also like that photos of my contacts appear in full screen with callerID for incoming calls. So far my friend Stan has the best photo ID in my address book. I won’t include it here but it’s very funny.
7. Contacts. The contacts/address book app is really sweet and really bad at the same time. It’s very easy to call, email and sms your contacts. Contact integration with google maps is just magical. But the iPhone doesn’t have contact search (yet).
8. Super iPod. Listening to music on iPhone is awesome. Coverflow is dreamy.
Incoming phone calls fade out the music perfectly. iPhone headphones also has a mic so you can talk on them as well. Even though I’ve been an ipod owner since the beginning of time, I didn’t always carry my ipod with me. with iphone, i do. And that’s excellent.
9. Form factor/durability/stability. The iPhone is solid. Hasn’t crashed on me once. The keyboard does slow down every so often but not bad. Form factor is outrageous. Screen seems very durable. No scratches after a week or normal use. I do tend to baby this thing a bit though. I don’t just throw it on my desk like the blackberry.
10. Dealing with Microsoft Exchange. Email is easy for those of you that use gmail, aol, yahoo, pop3 or imap. Exchange is not easy on iPhone.
By enabling IMAP on the Exchange server, the iPhone works with your corporate email. It’s not push email like blackberry though. Instead iPhone can at best fetch every 15 minutes. You can also manually fetch your email. I thought this was going to a headache but I can live with this.
There are two huge problems with iPhone for Exchange users though:
-Calendar and contact sync can only happen locally. And requires a cable. No over the air sync and no bluetooth sync. Sad but true.
-Even worse, any Exchange-based meeting invites sent to you are not received on iPhone. I believe it’s because IMAP is for email and can’t deal with the calendar protocol in exchange. It’s not made for that. I cannot accept or reject an incoming meeting invite from the iPhone mail client. (This doesn’t effect meetings I schedule myself obviously). My workaround is to check Outlook Web Access periodically where I can accept/reject mtgs.
So after a week, I’ve decided to continue using the iPhone as my primary phone. It’s far from perfect but at this time I like it the best. And it’s fun. I’ve never felt that way about my Blackberry.
When I travel more than a day, I’m going to keep the Blackberry in my bag just in case meetings suddenly change and I need to stay on top of it in real-time.
But for days in/around the office, quick day trips to nyc and weekends, I’m going all iPhone, all the time.
Several months ago we decided upgrade our website over at Spark.
With our latest fund news, we put up our new website as well.
This will continue to be a work in progress and I’m sure the home page will change a few times by years end. But I’m very happy with our latest release.
It’s much easier to navigate, it’s cleaner and it’s searchable. You can subscribe to our news feed as well.
My favorite part is that the “news” section is powered by Wordpress.
Now we can add cool Spark and/or or portfolio related videos, audio, widgets, photos etc. This is, of course, in addition to current Spark and portfolio company news. And we will have blog posts as well from various Spark folks.
Many thanks to Sunil who developed the new site. He’s a super guy and one talented dude.