16 May, 2007

Joost gets $45 mil from pals, partners -Om Malik

Joost, the P2P TV creation of Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, the co-founders of Kazaa and Skype. The company, just raised a whopping $45 million in funding from five investors.

“This funding represents a tremendous vote of confidence in Joost’s platform,” said Janus Friis, co-founder of Joost. “We’ve carefully selected these investors from a variety of interested parties”

Selected! Interesting choice of words, from Friis, pretty much letting everyone know who’s da boss. More importantly, it also indicated the premium valuation Joost got received. hope Joost puts some of these new dollars to use in building an infrastructure that can actually handle the traffic loads, and not like this past week when the service went on fritz for many of the Joost viewers. That’s the kind of thing that can prove to be a buzz kill.

And for investors who are suddenly looking at P2P TV companies, here is a short list of names that might come in handy: Babelgum, RawFlow, Jaman, Zattoo, and Neokast.

11 May, 2007

Small is The New Big: Moo.com -Om Malik

Richard Moross, a twenty-something Londoner, was bored with the business cards most people were exchanging. He decided to do something about it. He started Moo Prints, a 10-person start-up that takes images from popular websites, like Flickr and Bebo, and prints them on cards that are exactly half the height (28mm x 70mm) of a regular business card.

Size alone makes Moo cards memorable. Moross cleverly dubbed them “mini-cards,” leveraging a marketing trend that’s already been über-successful in selling autos and iPods. Better still, Moo minis are highly personalized. For instance, Moross will take photos from your Flickr account and print it on your cards.

Getting your Moo cards is simple—sign up for the service, fill out your contact details, add your Flickr ID, and 10 days later 100 cards show up. All in, a set of Moo minis sets you back just $20 with $5 in shipping.

Because Moo works with existing communities (and social networks) such as Skype, Habbo Hotel, Bebo, Second Life and Flickr, the company has built a sizeable following without spending a dime on marketing. Moo is the epitome of a business that has truly harnessed Web2.0.

Several others companies fit the bill, too. Among them: Germany-based t-shirt maker Spreadshirt; Chicago-based Skinny Corp; and San Francisco-based 8020 Publishing, publishers of the JPG magazine. And CastingWords, which offers a transcription service based entirely on the web. In each case, the basic work product of these companies is no different from that of their traditional predecessors. (A T-shirt is a T-shirt. A business card is still a business card.) These young businesses are not inventing new things that distinguish them. It is the way they are using technology to execute and interface with their customers that makes them special.

5 Future Innovations -IBM

IBM writes about five innovations that will change our lives over the next five years:

# We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world
# Real-time speech translation-once a vision only in science fiction-will become the norm
# There will be a 3-D Internet
# Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance
# Our mobile phones will come close to reading our minds

Learning Life's Simple Lessons -Speaking Tree

We spent a tension-filled week in the office recently with many of us awaiting news of promotions and increments. As rumours snowballed, hurried meetings took place in corridors.

Some people were ashen-faced, others were jumping with joy. Some criticised the 'system', others consulted experts. I decided to escape to Haridwar and experience a peaceful meditative week.

The ashram was serene and peaceful. All one could hear was the chirping of birds. In the afternoon, a smiling boy of 25 came to clean our room.

He said he could not come earlier as he had to clean 50 rooms all on his own. Seeing my shocked expression the boy grinned and assured me that it wasn't that bad a situation.

He revealed that he had joined just three days ago as a sweeper-cleaner. A month back, he was working as a motor mechanic in a private company but got laid off with many others.

Wasn't that terrible, I inquired gently. "No, Ma'm. It's all destined. I am young and hard working and I will find a good job again, God willing. Why should I worry?"

But a loss of Rs 5,000 wasn't small, I pursued. "Money comes and goes, like this Ma'm", he said and snapped his fingers. What a brave boy, I thought.

And here was I who had 'escaped'to the serenity of Haridwar. Despite a string of academic degrees, achievements and experience we still panic because we are afraid we would not move to the next grade.

To learn from life and one's experiences one must be open, receptive and flexible. Learning is a state of consciousness that enables one to learn from all situations if only one retains the innocence of a child. Even a humble servant can teach us qualities of generosity, forgiveness, unselfishness and the strength to bear burdens....

read the full article

09 May, 2007

Taking on Google! -The Hindu

It's the classic David versus Goliath battle being played out in the 21st century. We are talking of the great race between Web behemoth Google and Zoho, the Chennai-based underdog, to launch a suite of online office applications.

However, Sridhar Vembu, CEO of AdventNet, the company behind Zoho services, doesn't see it as an all-out battle. ``That would imply that there can be only one winner, which I don't agree with. Business is not like sports in that respect. It is perfectly possible to have a profitable, growing business without `winning' the market in the sense of being number one.''

While Google has been going about its mission with a mix of buyouts and internally developed products, Zoho has a team of several hundred engineers focused on churning out one product after the other, sometimes within a span of a few weeks!

On how a company very focused on the telecom market forayed into Web services, Vembu says: "When the telecom bubble burst, the company found itself with a lot of talented engineers. That's when Zoho was born. We decided to diversify out of telecom and it was obvious that Web-based applications was a key area of growth."

Which is why Vembu and company decided to make the pragmatic choice of building a company without venture capital. Does he have anything against taking VC money? "I don't have anything philosophical or religious against it. It's just a strong personal preference for the operating freedom that comes from not having to answer to financial-minded investors, while being subject to the discipline of living within our own means."

With independence being at the core of its culture, Zoho is unlikely to be gobbled up by an MNC with deep pockets. "We have a track record of patient engineering execution. Based on that history, I would say we will be around as an independent player, though in business one learns to never say never."

Google buys DoubleClick for $3.1 billion -Om Malik

Google bought Double Click for $3.1 billion which is almost twice what Google paid for YouTube! Google really wants to get into the display advertising business in a big way, and they don’t have the relationships they need to make it happen, but DoubleClick does. It gives them immediate access to those relationships.

One thing is becoming clear - Google wants to dominate the online advertising business, and will pay anything to keep rivals like Microsoft & Yahoo on a weak footing.

07 May, 2007

Google's Personalization Push: iGoogle, Localization, Gadget Maker -Read Write Web

Google has been experimenting with personalization a lot this year. In regards to its personalized homepage, Google has always had far more gadgets available on its platform than live.com, Netvibes or Pageflakes. Currently there are over 25,000 different Google gadgets that you can put on your iGoogle page.

Here is some useful background to Google's personalization efforts. Google wants to compute PageRank for every single person, Google thinks of personalization in 3 parts:
  • Search Your own stuff (like Google Desktop Search, Web History)
  • Traditional (Pull) Search
  • Push Search (like recommendations, iGoogle/ personalized homepage)
Google seems to be fighting a two-pronged battle with their personalization efforts - one is to keep themselves ahead of the alternative search engines, and the other is to one-up Yahoo, Microsoft, Netvibes, Pageflakes and the other personalized start page contenders.