We’ve been using Sonos for years. In my opinion it’s the best whole house audio system that I’ve ever used and I’ve tried a number of them. (And it’s designed by a startup)
Last year, our Sonos experience became even better when they came out with a new touch remote and an iPhone app. With a touch of a button I have last.fm, rhapsody and our local music library streaming in multiple rooms of our house. We had been using Sonos in three rooms of our house plus the patio.
The pre-requisite with Sonos is that you need speakers in every room where you want audio. Any type of speakers will do. But sometimes setting up speakers is a hassle. Putting two speakers in ideal locations isn’t always convenient so that’s why some of our rooms aren’t available to our Sonos.
last week. The S5 is a single amp/speaker system. Plug it in, press a button and it automatically joins your Sonos music network. It just works. I think the audio quality is excellent for an average size room.
I’m so happy with the S5 that I’m absolutely going to get a few more.
“Maybe the hardest part of leadership—be it leading a company, a family, a relationship or simply your own life—is that often times you don’t know and you have to still have to act. Leadership in some ways is built on learning to be comfortable with not knowing, with imperfect knowledge, with the inherent uncertainty of it all.”—The Monster In Your Head » Comfortable with Uncertainty
The title “associate” means different things at different venture capital firms so let me tell you what it means at Spark.
An associate at Spark is part of our investment team in our Boston office. He or she will help our team with market & competitive analysis, process deal flow, due diligence on new investment opportunities, assist our portfolio companies, attend & organize meetups as well as various other firm responsibilities such as annual reports and portfolio analysis.
This is not a classic two year and out program. We are looking for someone that will grow with us or possibly join one of our portfolio companies over time.
-excellent communication & listening skills -creativity -passion for new technologies -an active user of web and mobile applications -thoughtful about the ever changing media & technology landscape -aggressive, self starter -strong analytical skills -tech background plus but not required -based in boston or willing to move here -ideal previous experience (~2-4years) could include: startup, internet/technology company, analytical/financial role in related industries -(mba not required)
If this sounds like you, then please send an email to email@example.com with whatever you think can help us get to know you better (eg. linkedin profile, blog, twitter profile, video etc).
Focus is something so easy to say but difficult to do.
It’s hard for everyone. I have a hard time with it as my friends and colleagues can verify. I’m grateful that my job allows for a reasonable amount of ADD.
Focus in startups can be quite difficult as well. Everything is unproven and plenty of obstacles show up every day. It’s easy to think about adding more features, new types of customers, new one-offs to make the quarter.
But the one thing that keeps startups focused is the obvious constraint - limited capital. Most every early stage company is understaffed and under resourced for the task ahead. They can never match Google’s salaries or perks. They can’t afford the nicest office space. They can never hire as many people as they want. All they can do is hire the best people they can afford that believe in the founders, believe in the product and can function as a team. Then, the gun goes off and they build like mad.
That’s why startups have this unique advantage over bigger companies. Limited funding provides a forcing function. Big companies have big headcount and big budgets. Big companies have competing teams. They have competing products and agendas. They have competing execs. They have office politcs and never ending process.
"We are the most focused company that I know of or have read of or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose. The table each of you are sitting at today, you could probably put every product on it that Apple makes, yet Apple’s revenue last year was $40 billion. I think any other company that could say that is an oil company."
I’m sure there are plenty of big company headaches at Apple. I know they have their share of office politics. But one thing is clear: they are focused. And it shows.
(update: missed a link. Gruber’s summary came from Dan Frommer’s post here).
“I think it was 1996 when we met for the first time. We played a show with Norman Bailer and Commander Venus and I forgot the words to one of our songs. Conor was in the audience and hollered out the next line of the song. I couldn’t believe that someone in town knew our music.”—Jake Bellows talking about meeting Conor Oberst
I’ve been using Google Chrome as my default browser since the day it was released. I have firefox purely as a backup for the extensions that I count on.
But more of those extensions are coming to Chrome everyday and new ones are actually coming out on Chrome first.
One of my favorite Chrome exensions is Dan Kantour’s Extension.fm. I’ve been playing around with it all afternoon. Note that Extension.fm came out on Chrome first.
For those of you that don’t know, Dan is the creator of Streampad which is a music player that sits on the bottom of my blog. Using Streampad you can easily playback all of the songs that are on bijansabet.com as well as bijan.fm
Anyway, back to Extension.fm. Extension.fm does a few things and does them very well. Once you add the extension to Chrome it will provide an easy mp3 player for all the tracks it finds on a web page. Here’s a screen grab of what it looks like. It also supports last.fm’s audio scrobbler. It’s fantastic to use along with the Tumblr Dashboard.
As a user, easy install and no restart are big things. It’s amazing how the Blackberry almost always asks to restart after app installs. Chrome and iPhone don’t.
According to Google Analytics, 22% of the visitors to my blog are using Chrome. It will be interesting to see what that number looks like 6months from now — especially if more developers agree with Dan.
“Nathan Myhrvold and I have exactly the same goal. We’d both like to promote useful innovations that have a positive social impact. But we have very different opinions about how to do it. Nathan believes the patent system is the answer, and I believe the patent system is the problem.”—
Shout Out Louds’ Howl Howl Gaff Gaff is a big fave of mine. I liked, but didn’t love, Our Ill Wills. I got my hands on a full copy of the new album and it sounds good. Maybe not as good as HHGG, but better than Our Ill Wills. Good stuff.
I was going to reblog Dave’s post but Fred beat me to the punch!
This week is winter school vacation for our kids so we are down in Mexico.
Yesterday my daughter Ellie bumped her head pretty hard at the pool and ended up needing a couple of stitches (small cut but kinda deep). I felt so bad for her but she’s a remarkable kid. If it happened to me I would have milked this injury for more sympathy but she’s already back in the pool today :)
It was our first taste of a healthcare system outside of the United States. Clearly this is only one data point but here’s how it went down from a healthcare point of view:
Ambulance. The hotel called an ambulance for us. Came to the hotel in about 10 minutes. Driver was helpful, friendly and informative. Took 20 minutes to drive from the hotel to the hospital. Cost: $60 round trip.
Hospital. The hospital and emergency room were clean and professional. Ellie was seen by a doctor within 40 minutes of arriving at the ER. They saw a few other patients in the emergency room and the staff did a good job prioritizing which patients needed care first. Cost of emergency room and two stiches, $900.
Medicine. The doctor told us to pick up antibiotics for Ellie to avoid any risk of infection from the initial cut. Ellie is allergic to the default type of antibiotics so the doctor gave us an alternative. Cost: $40 which included a service charge because the pharmacy dropped it off at the the hotel. It took just two hours for the medicine to arrive after calling it in.
Naturally, I’m not thrilled that Ellie was hurt but I’m grateful that it wasn’t serious. Mexico’s healthcare system took good care of her.
This post is crazy obvious to many but I need to write it down anyway.
I received an email from a founder telling me about his startup.
The email starts out saying “the reason google makes so much money is because they capture intent”
Then because they capture your intention they can sell ads that are contextual and relevent.
We’ve heard this countless times and yes it’s true.
But here’s the real reason google makes so much money: their search engine works fast and amazingly well even as the number of web pages and spammers have exploded in recent years.
Everything else is only true because their search product is so excellent.
This rule of building something amazing and at scale is the pre requisite. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how you monetize (ads, virtual goods, subscription, a la carte, etc).
There were so many skeptics about facebook’s ability to monetize. The haters would say : they can’t monetize, it’s all UGC, they don’t capture intent. Blah blah blah. Today FB does over $100M a month in revenue. A month! Now I’m not a big Facebook user. It doesn’t work for me but clearly it works for many.
So before you get locked in on the business model make sure the product just works and blows people away.
(please excuse any typos. Wrote this post on my iPhone)
Like many folks, I have a ton of apps on my iPhone. I’ve written about my favorite ones in the past. There are so many good ones.
This morning I thought I would take a different approach and jot down four apps I want on my iPhone someday:
1 - A lightweight to do app that syncs (fast) with a web service.
There is an app i use to keep track of notes called Simplenote. Simplenote does exactly what it’s supposed to do without any extra bells or whistles. And it syncs really fast with their web version. I need the same thing for to dos. All the To Do apps I’ve tried on the iphone are either too slow, include too many features or sync poorly if at all to a web version. The best i’ve found to date is an app called ToDo - but it has too many features and the sync takes too long.
2 - Native gmail. Gmail in a browser (w/gears) is the only way to go. I love keyboard shortcuts, send/archive and conversation/threading. But those don’t exist when you use the iPhone mail client with gmail. Is it possible to create a native gmail app for iPhone?
3 - Batch photo uploader to Flickr. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t seem to upload multiple photos at once with the latest Flickr iPhone app. The app either times out or crashes. I want a simple app where I select multiple photos, press one button and copy them to Flickr.
4 - Disqus. I love the Disqus commenting service. Disqus powers the comments on my blog. It’s solid, handles spam well, has the best UI for comments and it allows me to reply to comments via email. But my inbox, like yours, is a mess. And sometimes I just want to read/reply to comments without dealing with my inbox. A disqus iPhone app would be a great way to get caught up with comments (on my blog and other blogs) and could provide an easy way to like, delete, tweet, mark as spam or respond.
Okay, I know I said four apps but here’s a bonus one :)
5. GDGT. gdgt is my social network for all things gadgets. I’d love to see a GDGT iPhone app in the near future.
I arrived in Mexico yesterday and been thinking about a bunch of random mobile things.
In no particular order.
0 - our hotel is roughly an hour drive south of the cancun airport. I had 3g coverage the entire way down. I don’t think I’ve driven anywhere in MA, NY or CA for that long and had the same 3g coverage
1 - before I left I called AT&T and signed up for their international plan. $29 for 20megs of data plus $0.50/minute for voice. Going over on data will cost me a $5.12 per meg. Such a nasty way to bill. Keeping track of data usage like that is nuts.
2 - thankfully i don’t have to keep track of cellular data since the hotel has very good wifi.
3 - i downloaded the Skype app for iPhone and pay $3 per month for unlimited calling to the US. I don’t plan on making a lot of calls except for dialing into my partner mtg on Tuesday. If I didn’t have skype I’m not sure how much it would cost.
4 - sim cards feel closed and nasty. I feel like a sucker roaming on cellular. Wifi feels good.
5 - I brought our big digital slr, canon 40d. I’ve taken way more pics on my iPhone than the dslr. Wonder how much longer i will lug around a dedicated camera.
6 - read the nyt this morning before everyone woke up on my iPhone. I wouldve preferred an iPad.
That’s all for now. Back to vacation.
(please excuse any typos. Wrote this on my phone).
When I was kid I remember getting a swiss army knife when I joined the cub scouts.
I loved that thing. It had a knife, compass, screwdriver, saw and even a toothpick. It had a bunch of other things too.
Since then so many products have tried to copy the swiss army knife model of “all-in-one”. The idea is to pack so much into your product that it solves everything and for everyone.
I think the only product that has done well with the swiss army knife model is the iPhone. Other than that more does not mean better. But the iPhone handles the swiss army knife challenge elegantly because the UI doesn’t get jenky as you add more apps (unlike your all in one toaster, all in one dvd, all in one receiver, all in one printer etc).
Right now, I use so many different web services for a variety of different things. I use blippy, twitter, tumblr, last.fm, skype, gdgt, gmail, foursquare, plancast, and a bunch of other services too.
But I don’t want them all smashed together. They are valuable to me because they solve different problems and offer me different experiences.
In the early days of Tumblr, some users were using it as a life streaming service. Auto-import every RSS feed you own and stick it in your tumblr blog. I tried that too. But that wasn’t the idea of that simple RSS feature and most folks don’t do that anymore (or at least the people I follow). Instead users have settled into a place where they curate what they want in their tumblr dashboard and what they don’t. It’s packaged with care and not autofed.
Similarly, I don’t want my Twitter timeline filled with every single auto-post from every other service. They should stand apart and offered their own user experience. My gdgt and foursquare and blippy timelines couldn’t be more different and that is a beautiful thing.
And that is my beef with Google Buzz. It is trying to be the swiss army knife of my social media life. And I don’t want that - it’s unnatural to me and mixes things that I don’t want mixed. I think the part that is most unnatural about Buzz is that the autostreams everything. Dan Lyons puts it nicely:
Why, Google? Why take a perfectly wonderful e-mail system and pollute it by adding a zillion new things to it? I’m not looking for more clutter in my life. I’m looking for less. At the launch event some Google exec claimed Buzz is a way to “find the signal in the social networking noise,” but to me it looks like Google is just adding to the noise.
I want to choose what goes in.
Auto post, auto subscribe, auto import and auto follow aren’t helpful to me.
One more thing, the swiss army mistake doesn’t meant that web services shouldn’t support a two way API. Products should talk to each other and the best ones do just that. But that is different than the magical, all singing/all dancing-all-in-one-uber-product-on-steriods trap”. It’s actually the opposite.
“Maybe it was the stale pastry. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Whatever it was, though, when I heard my fellow board member say it, I felt like puking. “What we need,” he bloviated, “is a ‘world-class’ CEO.””—
I’ve seen a number of consumer startups trying to reach massive scale by doing deals with carriers or device manufacturers (cell phone manufacturers)
Some worked out nicely for the startups but most don’t.
I like consumer startups that are taking charge of their own destiny. They are not white labeling their product or brand. They are not licensing intellectual property. They are not comprimising the user experience to make the big “partner” happy. They are not indifferent to those decisions.
Instead they are 100% focused on the user (and developers) and establishing their brand and purpose.
Awhile back I wrote about a problem I encountered when I ported my phone number. I asked for a better way to communicate this info to my friends, family and business associates. I received about a dozen emails from startups going after this problem. Unfortunately most of them built a product and approach that assumed that a deal with carriers was better if not essential.
I’d like to think that the open web and open mobile platforms allow us to finally go direct to our users and figure this stuff out together.
Now there are times where partnership and distribution deals make sense. I like them if they add value to the network and don’t hide the consumer brand or force the startup to make unnatural choices.
But in the absence of those things, I say damn the torpedoes and take control over your destiny. Don’t outsource it.
(clarification: this post is about consumer applications. i’m not talking about infrastructure or technology licensing companies, etc).