Archive for April, 2011

A free startup idea
April 28, 2011

In the last few weeks I’ve been looking for something specific to buy and have had no idea where to buy it. Before Easter, I was looking for packages of Easter cards to buy. This item is everywhere for Christmas but not so much for Easter. Then I was on vacation in Concan, which is in a dry county, and I needed a 12 pack of beer. Then I was south of San Antonio and needed to buy some diapers.

There are lots of mobile phone Apps that let you compare prices of items in different places. ShopSavvy, for example, lets you scan the barcode of an item and it tells you what other stores nearby have the same item for sale and at what price. This comes in handy for big TVs and couches, but in my case I wasn’t price shopping; I simply needed to know where to go to find what I needed. I wasn’t going to drive 5 miles to save a nickel on a case of beer, I simply wanted to know where the closest place selling what I needed was.

So why doesn’t someone make a mobile App that compiles UPC databases like ShopSavvy but instead of focusing on price, it simply gives location? Furthermore, let me search for products by keyword like “diapers” or “beer.” At the time, I didn’t care if I found Budweiser or Blue Moon and I didn’t care if I got Pampers or whatever other brand of diapers is out there. I just needed to find the product nearby.

How to make money from it? Sponsorships? Ads? Promotions and coupons? Who knows, there are a lot of possibilities. But my thinking is it can’t be THAT hard to take the data currently being used by lots of apps, implement categories (“hamburger meat”, “toilet paper”, “beef jerky”) for searching. That way, the next time I’m on vacation and need a beer, some hamburger buns, some paper towels, and a bottle of vegetable oil I can easily find it.

One of the many problems with Google….
April 27, 2011

So this here blog is “lightly” read. Most of my posts garner fewer then 5 views initially (and at least 2 are by me re-reading it, one to my sister in law, and one to my buddy Josh). SO its safe to say that Techstbooks is a fairly quiet corner of the internet.

Looking at my paltry stats, I notice that my post title “iPad vs. Kindle vs. Galaxy Tab vs. Streak vs. PLaybook…” is the most read. By a REALLY wide margin. THe post is less then a year old and has garnered over 500 views, far outpacing the rest of the post views in total. In fact, if you type in that title (or parts of it) in google, you actually see my post as the first or second result in the search monolith’s results. ALRIGHT!

The problem lies in the fact that the content of my post is an analysis of the various uses of each product and how each has strengths and weaknesses. There is basically nothing technical in the post and not much in terms of a concrete recommendation or objective critique. It is safe to say that people searching for “ipad vs. Kindle” or “Ipad vs. Galaxy Tab” have very little interest in my musings. They are looking for a concrete evaluation of the products and information that will help them make an informed decision regarding those products. As I said, my post offers none of these things.

Google already gets guff (deservedly) for being full of spam links now. But underneath all of that, the actual REAL content (like my posts) that get promoted in search results are often completely useless because they aren’t applicable. The solution lies in somehow making search semantic so that the search engine “knows” somehow what the searcher is seeking. Product reviews, a recipe for deviled eggs, a comparison between the hottest tech products out there. I don’t know how to solve this issue (hey, don’t blame me – I don’t work at Google) but at some point there will be a point where the problem created by spam combined with the lack of the RIGHT content being easily found will make Google more trouble then it’s worth. My bet is the G-team is trying to solve this issue and not become irrelevant. But it’s a big problem, and it’s only getting worse.

I’m thankful for the traffic and it’s always fun to be “first” in Google’s rankings for something. But part of me feels like part of the problem and not the solution. The other part of me is going to start titling blog posts with oft-search phrases like “how to make a million dollars” and “good asbestos lawyer” so I can get more traffic…

How Google can crush Facebook.
April 26, 2011

Facebook and GOogle have lots of money. I mean LOTS AND LOTS of money. In the bank, sitting there. Doing nothing but gaining interest and making the balance sheet look good.

And they are “at war” with each other. One rules social, one rules search. Both make a lot of money using advertising. In their own way, both want to be the “go to” place for your connected world. Google mostly wants you using products and services that get you viewing Google’s ads. Facebook wants you doing Facebook-y things that get you on to their “platform” so they can get you viewing Facebook ads. (This goes back to the most important rule of internet usage: if you aren’t spending money as the customer, then you are the product).

Anyway, with it a given that Google and Facebook want your eyeballs all the time, at the expense of the other, why doesn’t one of them take a small pile of that medium sized pile of cash and and pay you?

For example, Facebook has at least a billion dollars in the bank and a 70 billion dollar valuation. Google has a zillion dollars in the bank and an accompanying valuation. Facebook has 700 million members, roughly. Let’s assume that half of those are actual active accounts. 350 million people using Facebook. Let’s say 1/3 are power-users, 1/3 are “the grandmothers”(those who followed family members on to the site so they could see pictures of the grandkids and otherwise don’t do much), and 1/3 are fence-straddlers (people who have an account but haven’t yet found it to be essential to their daily routine)

Using those numbers, why doesn’t google post an offer that goes like this:

“We will give $1,000 to the first 10 million people who abandon their Facebook accounts for a year.” (From a tech standpoint, the Big G could develop a download that the person was required to install on their computers and mobile devices that would either block Facebook or log their actions. Whatever, they can figure it out).

I rarely use facebook (a “fence-straddler”), so I’d gladly take a grand to avoid it for a year. I’m sure there are 10 million more like me as well: people who have accounts but don’t use them very often. And therein lies the reason this plan would work: Facebook’s power users may account for certain revenue but they don’t account for any growth. They are already active, satisfied, knowledgeable of how FB works. The value of those users is already being extracted. The grandmothers aren’t EVER going to get more integrated in to Facebook outside of checking up on a few friends and looking at photos. Your Grandpop isn’t playing Mafia Wars. Facebook’s target now is people like me: people who have an account but don’t use it much, if at all. I might check my FB once a month if I’m done surfing the rest of the internet. There is a lot of value for FB to be extracted from me using their service more. But if Google offered me $1,000 to leave and never come back, I would.

OVer time this strategy wouldn’t really be the death knell for FB. But the billion dollar investment would buy Google something they desperately need as they try and compete in social: TIME. Stunting FB’s growth for a year, getting the next wave of FB-power-users to sit on the sidelines for 12 months buys Google time to build a social product and a social strategy. ANd if they want to kick in another billion dollars for me and my 10 million friends to tell them WHY facebook stinks and why we don’t use it, well that would be fine with us. Money well spent if you ask me.

A couple quick thoughts…
April 19, 2011

It’s been a while so I thought I’d post a couple quick thoughts…

1. We’re all fishing in the wrong pond. Consumer based startups are all the rage right now. Blame Facebook and Twitter (the exceptions to the rule). Everyone wants to build the next application that has millions of users that hopefully, eventually, finds a way to use advertising to make a buck. Nevermind that this is really really hard. Conversely, the enterprise (“business”) software sector is bigger then the consumer sector by a factor of a zillion. That’s only a slight embellishment: Enterprise I/T spend (software and hardware like computers and servers) will be 2.5 TRILLION dollars in 2011. 2.5 TRILLION is a mighty big number. Capturing 1 one-hundred-thousandth of the market would still be a 25 million dollar business. For perspective, Twitter booked between 50 and 100 million in revenue last year. Which way seems easier to make 25 million bucks? Capturing a miniscule sliver of a huge market or becoming a leader in a “cheap” market?

2. Group buying is out of control. I would bet that 9 out of 10 new startups are trying to do some spin of the Groupon model. This is appealing to folks because they start making money from the word go. Problem is, most of these startups are foundd by people with zero technical knowledge but a hankering for being in the “tech startup” world. Nevermind that Groupon isn’t (yet) a tech company. They are featured on Techcrunch a lot so people with no tech skills who are DYING to be in tech somehow think this is their chance. But as Marc Suster (is that how you spell his name?) “the auto market is a multi-trillion dollar industry and you guys are worried about f***ing bars and restaurant coupons?”