acquisition – Stay N Alive

Create for a Cause

Recently here in Salt Lake City we had the opportunity to have Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google visit. While I didn’t have the chance to see it, reading about it, he seemed to talk about a common worry I hear throughout this State. Here in Salt Lake City and around the area we have a lot of successful businesses! From my Uncle’s, to Omniture, to Mozy, to Novell, Wordperfect, and many others, there’s no shortage of success in this area. It’s a hotbed of talent and technology the world doesn’t give enough credit for. The problem is that we have no Yahoos or Googles or Facebooks or Microsofts to give us credit for that success. We have no home-grown success story that didn’t eventually sell out for big bucks to one of the big West Coast companies.  I think this is a common problem for many areas.  Why is this?

Eric Schmidt tried to come up with his own reasons in response to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who (Hatch) stated, “We get a corporation going and it has some tremendous ideas and all of the sudden someone comes up from Silicon Valley and buys it and takes it back there.” Schmidt responded, saying, “I don’t know whether [improving the situation means] globalizing the business. I don’t know whether we need more venture capitalist presence in Utah or maybe just more experience building the businesses from the startup. It’s not that businesses aren’t getting started, it’s that once started they aren’t growing the businesses fast enough.” So what is it that keeps the Googles or Microsofts from staying in Utah (and other states) rather than staying here and growing to compete with the big guys?

I’ve suggested the PR problem before. That’s just one problem Utah has – a lack of enough tech bloggers to get the word out to Silicon Valley. One other common problem I see in Utah is we get greedy. I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing. Too many Utah startups are focused on the money rather than an underlying cause that motivates their revenue stream. That’s part of the reason Utah businesses have been successful – we have some of the smartest business people in the world right here. Even Eric Schmidt confirmed that, stating that “Utah is one of the best places to do business.” We know how to make money! Unfortunately that’s what differentiates us from the West Coast companies like Google however.

I argue it all revolves around cause. Let’s look at Eric Schmidt’s company itself, Google. Everything they do centers around one central cause, “Do no evil”. It doesn’t even matter if they have purpose. Everything they do must be done “the right way”, even if they lose money from it. Some even argue this has become a PR pitch for them as well. Google is willing to lose money for their cause, yet they are also making money because of it. It’s an amazing strategy.

Facebook also does this well. I’ve done a lot of work with Facebook with 2 books on the company and several apps written around their platform. When you interact with them and their employees, you get a common theme from them: They are doing all they can to enable people to share in bigger and better ways. Their vision is to help you share without risking privacy. Everything they do revolves around that – their revenue model is built around their cause.

Twitter is building “the pulse of the internet”.  They want to enable better communication between anyone in the world. They’ve forgone revenue to ensure that takes place (yet they’ve been able to raise a ton of capital, I realize, but I argue that’s part due to their cause).

I see the same thing from company to company in the Bay Area and even up in tech hotbeds like Seattle (home of Amazon, Microsoft). These guys all drive revenue based on purpose! While there are currently a few exceptions, I don’t quite see this in Utah and other states, especially amongst the larger startups. It’s all business.

Eric Schmidt also stated that “It’s not an attitude problem, it’s an availability problem. To me, it’s recruiting new talent into the state and growing new talent. It’s really people and expertise and that’s the way to make it happen.” Guess what drives and keeps talent? Motivation. If people have cause to work for they come, and they stay, and they work hard at it.  I remember at (a Utah company), our mantra was “We use the gear we sell”.  Employees loved that because all kinds of incentives were given to get employees using their cool gear, and the employees loved that!

80% of Utah’s population is in the Salt Lake City area. Schmidt suggested this was an incredible opportunity for people to connect. I think we just need motivation to encourage that connectedness. Motivation is what makes the Googles and Facebooks and Microsofts of the world.

If you’re a startup, anywhere, what are you building on top of? Where are your foundations? Are you building for money or for purpose? I know as I build my business I’m going to be thinking much, much more about changing the world and less about the money I make as a result of that. The money will come naturally. That is how you build Google, and keep it there.

What’s your cause? What businesses do you think do this well? Please share in the comments.

EDITORS NOTE: 2 Companies in Utah that I think are doing really well at this are Phil Windley’s Kynetx and Paul Allen’s FamilyLink.  When you interact with them you can sense their cause.  It bleeds through the company.  People are sacrificing time and money just to be sure their cause is getting through.  As a result, Paul Allen’s company was recently ranked one of the fastest growing companies on COMScore, and recently, according to, surpassed his old company, in traffic.  Cause eventually pays off!  I encourage you to learn what they do – they won’t be going away any time soon.

Source of Eric Schmidt Comments:

FriendFeed’s Just Fine

friendfeedWith all the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt around one would think FriendFeed is this service that is going the way of Jaiku, Pownce, Dodgeball, and others that went dead after their owners acquired them.  There’s no doubt that amongst certain users in the US the activity in their streams is going down and some are talking about it.  Just last month, Robert Scoble, FriendFeed’s number one user and unpaid evangelist publicly announced his resignation from the service and move over to bigger services like Twitter.  Even yesterday, Louis Gray, perhaps FriendFeed’s second most active unpaid evangelist (and both good friends of mine), shared a statistic seemingly indicating his disappointment with the service.  Yet, when you look at the big picture, things are up and to the right.  There are no statistics anywhere that indicate FriendFeed is anywhere close to losing users when you look at the numbers and the long-haul.

Louis Gray shared a graph of unique visitors yesterday which indicated that in November, FriendFeed had shown less users accessing the site than its low point a year ago.  What isn’t shared though is that Compete is normally only indicative of US users, and FriendFeed is well known as an international site, extremely active in regions such as Turkey and the mideast.  Remember the activity FriendFeed got around the Iran crisis?  Even Bret Taylor, co-founder of FriendFeed, now working for Facebook admitted that since August, International activity on FriendFeed is now dominating.  See the graph below.

Screen shot 2009-12-11 at 5.03.03 PM

If you look at both Alexa and Quantcast 2 year stats, which when taken as a whole are generally a bit more acceptable a statistics engine in terms of general and international traffic, they both show an up-and-to-the-right trend for FriendFeed that hasn’t stopped since last year.  There are a few down points, such as when 2 months in a row, TechCrunch wrote a scathing post about FriendFeed, comparing it to “the mob”, and Mike Arrington’s fallout after that (he was one of the top-followed users on FriendFeed up until that point).  The next month Facebook acquired FriendFeed, and the lash back from users ensued, many discontinuing their use of the site, especially in the United States and Silicon Valley.  The other major dip occurred in November, where Robert Scoble, FriendFeed’s most followed user, announced publicly that he was moving his activity over to Twitter and lessening his activity over on FriendFeed. FriendFeed still appears to be recovering from that, but it’s way too early to determine if that started a down and to the right trend – I doubt it.  If you look at the Alexa stats, the 3 dips I mentioned occurred right around the the 3 events I just mentioned.  Coincidence?

Screen shot 2009-12-11 at 12.20.01 AM

Yet, when you look at FFHolic, the site which ranks FriendFeed users and their activity, you’ll notice a change in the trends.  The top users all remain the same – people from the United States and especially Silicon Valley which use the site rarely, yet are very popular.  But when you look at the most active users, you no longer see the Monas and the Louis Grays and the Robert Scobles you used to see in that section.  The most active users on FriendFeed are now their international audience.  The second most active user, VAHID, has a feed of mostly non-English posts!  So you can see that yes, when a very popular Silicon Valley blogger leaves the service, a huge chunk of the US audience leaves with them, and so does their activity, yet, the most active users aren’t even listening to or following those guys.  FriendFeed continues to grow.

I predict there will be a shift, if this continues, where the most active users on FriendFeed soon will become the most followed people on FriendFeed.  The more the popular users neglect the service, the more the more active users will have a chance to catch up to them.  FriendFeed’s founding team has made it clear they’re not killing the service.  In fact, they’ve been keeping it running and even improving it since they were acquired by Facebook.  Check out the open source Tornado Framework FriendFeed is based on – it is still getting updates from the FriendFeed and Facebook teams.  The FriendFeed team is all using the service still.  FriendFeed was just included in the deal with Google for real-time search results, which means FriendFeed is most likely a revenue-generating site for Facebook now.

If anything, the Facebook acquisition of FriendFeed should have you more comfortable, not less, that it is going to be around for a long, long time.  There is no reason for it to go away.  If it does, they’ll make it easy to get the same features you are getting on FriendFeed over on Facebook itself so you can take comfort you’re not going to lose anything.  But if anything should comfort you it’s that FriendFeed continues in an up-and-to-the-right pattern when you look at the big picture and not the short-term dips the big Silicon Valley bloggers keep bringing up.  I still see stats for my blog on FriendFeed.  As long as FriendFeed is successful Facebook has no reason to remove it as a service.  There’s still too much opportunity here.  It’s still way too powerful a tool to kill and I think we’re all jumping the gun with the “it’s dead” statements.  There are no facts supporting that statement.

Will I Jump? Louis Gray and I Talk the Facebook/FriendFeed Acquisition

niagara falls barrel jump


As I was walking over Horseshoe falls at Niagara Falls today, Louis Gray and I chatted a bit over BlogTalkRadio’s Cinch service. In our discussion we talked about the Facebook acquisition of FriendFeed, and I think we both came into agreement that jumping now, while a understandable response, perhaps isn’t the best decision. I cover my knowledge of the Facebook platform and Facebook, while Louis talks about his knowledge of FriendFeed and the FriendFeed team and his thoughts on the matter. I think it was a very interesting conversation, to say the least.

You can listen via the stream above or just download it here. Be sure to follow my Cinch feed for more updates like this! (And add Cinch’s number to your phone book so you can do the same) Let me know what you think!

Facebook to FriendFeed: "You Complete Me"

friendfeed-facebookI have to admit I’m a little behind on the news of Facebook acquiring FriendFeed. My day today consisted of driving through up-state New York, and tonight I sit here typing just about a 15 minute walk from the beautiful Wonder of the World, Niagara Falls. There are so many better things to think about! (just see the pictures I took tonight) Yet, as I got the initial text via Tweet from Louis Gray today stating Facebook had acquired FriendFeed, I couldn’t get my mind off of what that would mean for both services.

For those that know my background, I’ve written 2 books on Facebook, both from a developer/platform perspective, and a marketing/user perspective (if you want to see what those books are, check out the upper-right nav of my blog). I’ve written numerous apps for Facebook, even sold one of them in just a few months after developing it, and spend much of my time consulting and helping major companies and app developers understand Facebook better.

At the same time, I have always been extremely bullish on FriendFeed. I love the open nature of FriendFeed and how it allows me to express myself publicly in ways I couldn’t before. I love the messaging capabilities, and especially the search and notification options FriendFeed offers me. I almost wrote a post about the perfect Trifecta of FriendFeed, Twitter, and Facebook, and how the three just work well together. I even predicted earlier this year that FriendFeed would be acquired this year. I have been rigorously researching and working on the developer platform that FriendFeed offers, and loe the open nature of it and their relationship with developers.

It’s because of this background that I had to think seriously about what I thought about this new relationship between Facebook and FriendFeed. I came to the conclusion that the two complete each other.  They’re like two puzzle pieces just waiting to be joined. The thing is, I can’t think of any reason why they shouldn’t be together. Here are just a few reasons why:

FriendFeed Needs Privacy Controls

I was actually about to put together a post on this exact topic.  I’ll try to keep it short here.  I noticed recently that Louis Gray’s wife joined FriendFeed.  I was excited, because this meant my wife, who is friends with Louis’s wife (albeit virtually), could actually have a chance at being convinced to do the same.  The problem is that we have children old enough that I would prefer we kept their identities off the internet as much as possible.

At the same time I have had threats of physical assault before via my blog and elsewhere.  I want to be more careful about what I type and who sees it.  The problem with FriendFeed is that not only do my friends see it, but so do their friends, and their friends’ friends, and that pattern has the potential to go on forever.  We saw this with the “mob” mentality that drove Michael Arrington off the site much earlier.  Yes, this is also a strength and what makes FriendFeed powerful, but I want on occasion to have some control over who gets to see that, and from what  Friend List I have on the site.

Privacy is Facebook’s main strength.  Imagine FriendFeed being able to educate the Facebook team based on their own experiences with allowing “friends of friends” to see the data and cycling newly “liked” items back to the top, while at the same time allowing Facebook to give their own expertise of allowing those same users to make their items more private?

I think there’s a lot of power in that, and it’s something FriendFeed doesn’t have yet.

FriendFeed Needs Profiles

I’ve asked for profiles for quite awhile now.  I want a way to identify myself on FriendFeed, so people can know who the person is regarding the feeds their reading.  This one is simple – there’s no doubt that Facebook is good at this.

Facebook Needs Search

Facebook just proved today that this is a focus for them.  And guess what – one of the first things they announced in their rollout of a new search engine was their recent acquisition of the FriendFeed team!  This gives a lot of potential, not only for search, but also for the ability for broad, real-time search, across all of Facebook and more, something the FriendFeed team is really good at.  The FriendFeed team will also be very good at making this search more accessible to the public, all of this while respecting their privacy preferences.

Facebook Needs Better Notifications

We all know FriendFeed is good at this.  On almost every page (and it was soon also going to be on search pages) you have the option to have posts, or posts and comments sent to you via e-mail or IM.  Also, each page has its own RSS feed, with support for PubSubHubbub, something the FriendFeed team helped instigate.  This enables real-time updates via RSS.  Facebook enables RSS on only very few pages – the FriendFeed team is very aware of this, as they have been trying to import that data from Facebook themselves!  The FriendFeed team knows the headaches of the Facebook platform more than anyone!

Now, what if we could take Facebook’s current SMS capabilities, something FriendFeed does not have, and apply them to the FriendFeed-style posts, agreggation, updates, and search notifications we see on FriendFeed currently?  I know I would certainly become a happy user, as this is something I’ve been asking for on FriendFeed since day 1!

Facebook Needs Better Messaging

I saved the best for last.  Facebook has had its static Inbox for quite awhile now.  We know they’re working on a new solution from posts by TechCrunch, AllFacebook, InsideFacebook, and others, but we know this is something Facebook just isn’t very good at.  The FriendFeed Team re-invented messaging with their bare hands. Let’s put this in simple terms: Paul Bucheit, cofounder of FriendFeed, is the creator of Gmail.  He now works for Facebook.  End of Story.

Be at Ease

Sure, this news took a lot of people by surprise (although it shouldn’t have if you read my blog).  Some people dislike Facebook.  FriendFeed was the “new early adopters playground”.  Early adopters don’t like going back to old things.  It’s a little scary for some.

I suggest you wait a little.  FriendFeed has a very competent team.  We still don’t know what was in that contract they signed.  Sure, we have some hints, but FriendFeed has yet to let us down.  They have a perfect track record for long-time users of their service.  They know what’s going to happen at Facebook, and while sure, things can change, you better bet they’ll be fighting for their existing loyal users.  You now can know you have a team you can trust at Facebook, if you didn’t have that trust before.

Also, here’s what we do know: is still up and working just as well as always.  Facebook now owns FriendFeed. FriendFeed may start integrating more deeply with Facebook.  We don’t know that for sure.  That’s all we know.  Before you jump, think of your trust for the FriendFeed team and their track record so far.  Let’s see what happens, and when they do take action that effects us we can make our decisions.  Until then I’ll be waiting and supporting them and celebrating their recent success.

The two businesses could not have asked for a better relationship.  I think because of this, Facebook all of the sudden has put out the announcement that they want to become more open like FriendFeed.  We should be applauding them!  FriendFeed has just announced that they leaped over Twitter and are more mainstream than they could ever imagine, as the exact same service they always were.  We should be applauding them, too!  Now think about that for awhile and let’s see what happens.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go spend some more time at the ‘Falls.

Photo courtesy

Twitter Needs to Buy TweetDeck

tweetdeckWSJ today reported that China has blocked, preventing its 1.3 billion citizens from potentially accessing the site.  Iain Dodsworth, developer of TweetDeck, was quick to point out however (which I noticed on FriendFeed ironically) that his service is still reportedly accessible in the Mainland.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Twitter, you need your own desktop client!

With everyone up in arms over how Twitter will monetize and when it will happen, there has been one obvious missing link from the start.  Twitter has never had control over how Tweets get to the users.  They themselves have admitted the API gets used much more than their own site gets used, showing, to me, that there is a way, currently, Twitter could be monetizing.  Twitter has made it clear they do not intend to advertise through Tweets, which would almost certainly be rejected by their current user-base, already annoyed by the abundance of spam on the site.  What Twitter could do however, that is assuming they have control over the main methods users receive Tweets, aka their desktop clients, is insert ads into such a desktop client and their own website, unobtrusive to users.  Users will probably not even care at such ad placement, considering Google gets away with it, Yahoo and Microsoft do within their own search products.

Other Monetization Strategies

According to a recent TechCrunch article, Iain Dodsworth himself is already looking to monetize via this method.  His method doesn’t even involve advertising, and maybe, in a world where advertising is beginning to prove ineffective, his method has even more potentially lucrative than the one I mention.  His method is, according to TechCrunch, to charge developers looking for integration into TweetDeck for integration into the product.  I think this is a great idea, and something that, with the popularity of TweetDeck, will prove quite profitable for him in the end.

Twitter could be doing this as well and perhaps even more effectively with the strong developer platform they have built.  Add to that ability to integrate directories of applications into such an application enable featured app listings, along with perhaps an advertisement here or there Twitter could very quickly become profitable just by having control of such an application.

Why TweetDeck is a Good Choice

This isn’t meant to begrudge any of the other apps I enjoy and use.  The fact is that TweetDeck is the most popular and most used Desktop app for Twitter right now (even though we can’t prove that at the moment thanks to Twitter API issues).  It has the most users and most adoption – it would be the quickest barrier to entry, and clearly has features their users like, as they seem to continue using the app.

Considering deals are already being made to monetize the application, and considering, based on the recent investment of $500,000 into the company, comparatively speaking to the amount of money Twitter claims to have, TweetDeck shouldn’t be that expensive for Twitter to buy at the moment.  Now’s the time Twitter. I wouldn’t wait much longer, as TweetDeck is about to become a whole lot more valuable.

More Distribution Options

Considering the recent issues in China, were Twitter to own the distribution channel, let’s imagine it’s TweetDeck, they would still have control of what goes out to China, and how to monetize off of those users.  Currently, TweetDeck, and any client for that matter, have no devotion to Twitter – it’s just the first service they’re servicing in a long line of other services they’re also adding to their clients.  Twitter should own this opportunity, and where they are claiming to be the next “AP”, if they’ve learned anything from the News organizations (I’ve worked in this industry), they need to control the distribution and not just the content.

I think Twitter is giving up an important opportunity by not having control of the desktop.  I could probably say the same for the mobile phone (especially the iPhone).  Perhaps their fear is that it would introduce unfair competition for the other desktop clients out there, but I don’t see any reason the other clients can’t compete as well, if not more than Twitter would provide anyway.  This simply provides an important distribution platform where they would be provided many more monetization opportunities.  I think it’s win-win.

Now, to get the guys at Twitter to start reading my blog…