August 25, 2005
VV Show #11 - Scott Rafer of Feedster
If you thought you're an entrepreneur just because you started a software company in Silicon Valley, you're dead wrong, according to Scott Rafer. It's just too easy. Scott's the CEO of San Francisco-based Feedster, an RSS search engine and ad network that allows people to find blogs, jobs and more. Scott is no stranger to the startup world, having been an entrepreneur in several parts of the world. He's not afraid to speak his mind, either, as a blunt blogger and speaker.
Update (4/5/08): Since this interview Scott left Feedster, which is now out of operation. He joined MyBlogLog as CEO and sold it to Yahoo! within a year for a reported $10 million. He's now the CEO of Lookery.
1:30 Career start
- Did an internal startup for Kodak at age 28.
3:00 Corporate entrepreneurship
- 'The resources were pretty good but you paid for them by having 10 or 20% of your time sucked up doing things that were not moving either your individual business or in fact the overall corporate business forward.'
- Reading Seth Godin's new book, Free Prize Inside.
- 'Startups are too easy out here' in Silicon Valley.
10:00 Previous venture
- Stared WiFinder, a WiFi search engine, on September 5, 2001.
11:15 Being too early in a market
- 'First issue is how do you recognize if you are too early? I'm personally not very good at it.'
- Co-founded WiFinder with Oren Michels, who now is VP of Engineering at Feedster.
- On the board of advisors of Digital Railroad, which is 'the next generation of what Corbis does.'
- 'What you have to do is fall in love with the channel,' not the product.
- 'So if you're too early with a particular product, figure out who the product would serve, figure out how they want to buy it, and sell them something much, much, dumber until the market comes to fruition.'
15:15 Feedster involvement
- Went to Kevin Werbach's Supernova conference.
- Ran into Fran�ois Schiettecatte and got stuck in the Baltimore airport with him for 5 hours.
19:40 The next Google?
- Building a specialized advertising network.
- Providing private label search to AOL.
- Competitor IceRocket is funded by billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
- 'Mark Cuban is awesome, clearly. However, sometime he sticks with something for years and years and sometimes he sticks for something for weeks and weeks.'
- Competitor Technorati 'they spend all their time, and as far as anyone can tell every single employee, trying to drive traffic to their front door.'
- 'I'm thrilled that the Feedster 500 kicked some serious butt.'
24:30 Founder relations
- Two founders: Scott Johnson (blog) and Francois Schiettecatte.
- 'I'm getting founder-like at this point but I'm clearly not a founder.'
- 'The working relationship, it's sort of like old married couples by this point.'
- 'One of the things on my list is to go find a big Chinese partner.'
- Jason Calacanis gave Scott a 'pat on the back' for the Feedster 500.
31:15 Political views and causes
- Blogs often about politics.
- 'The four of us are free speech nuts.'
35:30 Audio vs. text
- 'We don't have anything going in the podcasting world, because I don't see how to generate revenue from it nearly as efficiently as text. But I'm a little weird this way, I don't have a TV, I don't have a MP3 player.'
- Referenced show with Evan Williams.
37:35 West vs. East Coast
- Advisor to Wireless Ink on Long Island, NY.
- 'Silicon Valley and San Francisco, I hesitate to call those of us out here running companies entrepreneurs' it's too easy to get the infrastructure.'
- Mentions Ellen Pack who runs a sophisticated nanny business.
- Mentions Flickr as an example.
- 'Other parts of the world, they're like, you idiot, go get a job.'
- 'Most of the world is not friendly to starting even the most attractive of startups, never mind the crazy crap most of us do.'
48:10 Threats to Feedster
- 'I watch the larger players with a tremendous degree of paranoia.'
50:40 Speculating on the future
- 'My crystal ball is just as broken as everyone else's.'
Scott Rafer is President and CEO of Feedster, a fast-growing blog search engine and advertising network. Feedster delivers more relevant, and timely information by continuously collecting data from nearly 7 million RSS content feeds. Before Feedster, Rafer co-founded WiFinder, the Wi-Fi hotspot directory; BookBroadband, the broadband hotel finder; Fresher Information, RSS indexing way too early; and FotoNation, a creator of connected photography solutions.
Previously, Rafer led the Internet products group at Kodak Hollywood and worked in investment banking at Needham & Company. For school, Rafer graduated from the Management of Technology program at the University of Pennsylvania.
August 18, 2005
VV Show #10 - Brad Feld of Mobius Venture Capital
Some venture capitalists keep a low profile, preciously guard their e-mail addresses from needy entrepreneurs and put on a jacket for publicity photos. Not Brad Feld. Brad started his career building his own technology consulting company with nothing but $10 and a 19-year-old's ambition. He grew his business to the level that it was an appetizing acquisition target, worked a bit for the company that acquired his firm doing acquisitions for them, did some angel investing, and is now a managing director at Mobius Venture Capital. All along, he's been vigorously growing businesses -- and sharing his know-how through his popular blog -- and now on this show.
1:15 Life as an entrepreneur
- Started first business, Feld Technologies, in Boston and sold it in 1993.
1:55 Growing a consulting firm
- 'We determined that the profit level we were generating at 20 people, well, if we grew to 40 people we'd obviously double the revenue, our profit would probably be exactly the same.'
6:45 Sold first business
- 'I acquired my way out of a job.'
9:50 Entrepreneur or investor?
12:00 Working with a CEO as an investor
13:45 Mobius Venture Capital
- All partners have founded or have run companies themselves.
- 'With the exception of really two decisions, I'd like to think that we work for the CEO of the company. The two decisions we really get to make are, one, the capital allocation decision (Do we want to keep funding the company or not?), and the other is do we support the CEO (Do we support the CEO or not?).'
16:00 Pitching your business to Mobius
- Currently investing a $1.25 billion fund that's 80% invested -- still a lot of money left to invest.
- The best way to get their attention is to get an introduction.
- Happy to take a quick look at anything someone e-mails him.
17:55 The business plan
- 'I personally don't care about the business plan at all -- especially for an early stage company.'
- 'However, I think the business plan is a really, really useful tool for an entrepreneur in terms of framing out what he or she is thinking about building.'
20:20 What to look for in a VC
- 'Honesty and integrity is paramount.'
'Intellectual horsepower has to be tempered with experience. If you've got a really, really smart person that's very inexperienced, that's often way, way more dangerous then an experienced person who's still obviously intelligent to be in the venture business, but not as smart.'
- 'I look for people that are genuinely excited about creating companies.'
- 'Having been doing this for a while, I look for people that are fun.'
- 'I've worked with people that are at top tier firms that are just disasters.'
23:45 Term sheet
- 'An experienced attorney that knows how to work with VCs and entrepreneurial companies will never hold up a deal.'
- Everyone in Mobius is in Palo Alto except for Brad who's in Superior, Colorado.
- Spends summers in Homer, Alaska.
- 'I've been an investor on both coasts, and it's cliché-ishly different.'
34:00 Always on?
- 'I always wear a t-shirt.'
- 'My wife likes to say there's only a few things she wished were different about me and one was that I actually had some fashion sense.'
- 'Much to my father's chagrin I still don't dress up at weddings and funerals.'
37:00 Today's agenda
August 15, 2005
VV Show #9 - Jeremy Hague of Skylook
While some people still wonder if the fax machine has been rendered obsolete, Jeremy Hague is ready to write e-mail's obituary. Jeremy's brand new company, Netralia, recently released a product to rave reviews called Skylook. Many people use Microsoft Outlook to manage their contacts and send e-mail. Skype is used by 47 million people to make phone calls over the Internet. Jeremy's Skylook program allows users to integrate Outlook with Skype so they can quickly place calls to contacts, merge contact lists and optionally record phone calls. Based in Australia, Jeremy uses his own program do business around the world.
1:25 Career start
- In Melbourne, Australia.
- Started Netralia.
- Business partner is Paul Andrews.
- Works with Outlook and Skype all the time.
4:00 Description of Skylook
- 'So many people will tell you their Skype name before their e-mail address.'
- 'It's always cool for people to hear my accent and for me to hear other people's accents over Skype.'
8:10 Call recording
- 'We didn't really set out to make the best recording program, it just worked out that way.'
9:45 Integrating two pieces of software from different manufactures
- 'Were working with the model at the moment of a fortnightly update.'
12:45 User feedback
- 'One of the amazing things is watching what people have been saying on blogs.'
- Check Technorati to monitor what people are writing about Skylook.
- 'E-mail is becoming a bit dated.'
14:45 Phone calls are back among techies
- 'One thing I realized' if I can see that someone's there and that they're online, and that I know they're at their machine, it will actually plant the idea in my head of calling them.'
- 'We sort of see e-mail turning into instant messaging.'
18:10 Business plan
- 'Being in a corporate job for four years, you almost become a slave.'
- $29.95 per license with a 14 day trial.
- 'We're in that stage at the moment of just making sure that it's working for everyone and rocking their world.'
24:55 Managing time
26:05 Skype building in functionality
26:45 Young entrepreneur
- Age 26.
- 'I was chatting with my old man about this, and he said 'you can spend your whole life wondering or you can go and have a go' and I think that's a very Australian thing, just going and having a go.'
29:15 Australian entrepreneurial culture.
- Mentions the Venture Voice show with Scott Heiferman of Meetup.
33:20 Remote collaboration via Skype
- 'Usually a couple of times throughout the week we'll [Paul and I] meet up for a coffee. I drink a lot of coffee by the way.'
35:20 Try Skylook
August 8, 2005
VV Show #8 - Kelly Perdew, Winner of The Apprentice
If someone told us to listen to business insights from a former game show contestant back in the day when The Price is Right was the closest thing to a televised business competition, we would have laughed in their face. Since then The Apprentice has attracted many ambitious young professionals to do battle for a spot in the Trump Organization. The winners have all been entrepreneurs, and Kelly's resume has the word 'founder' repeated more than enough times to qualify him as a serial entrepreneur. Kelly is the winner of The Apprentice 2 and is seven weeks into his apprenticeship with the Trump Organization.
1:10 Career beginnings in the Army
- Went to West Point.
- Signed up for the Army at age 17 1/2.
3:25 Getting an MBA/JD
4:15 First venture
- ImageTel International, Inc.
- Raised half million in venture capital while in school.
- 'I can attribute a number of my successes to the training I received' in the Army.
6:30 Worked at Deloitte Consulting (then called Braxton Group)
- 'I was always the one at the company meetings with my hand up asking when we were going to do profit sharing.'
8:30 Worked at eteamz
- Won business plan competition at UCLA.
- Raised about $1 million from the Tech Coast Angels.
- Raised about $4 million more from venture capitalists.
- 'The only two sports sites that had more than we did were CBS SportsLine and ESPN.'
- Got acquired by Active.com.
- 'You can have the best idea in the world, and a fantastic team assigned to you ' and I do believe that you make your own luck ' but market timing really is very important.'
12:25 If you were filmed while you were working on all these entrepreneurial ventures, would you come off the way that you did on The Apprentice?
- 'I guess it depends who's editing it... just kidding.'
- 'I could see a little bit of myself and my past in each of the other candidates: Raj's wanting to be the center of attention. Andy's creativity in coming up with ideas. John's passion for stuff. Kevin's work ethic.'
- 'I understand that decisions have to be made with imperfect information.'
- 'I trust my gut a lot more then I used to.'
- 'You know when you know.'
- 'At eteamz we kept one of those spin dials on the wall that would either be a smiley face or frowney face.'
16:35 Pre-Apprentice enterprises
- Started MotorPride by bootstrapping.
- CEO of CoreObjects that built software for software companies.
- 'Seven or eight years ago venture capitalists wouldn't give you money if you were developing your software offshore because they were concerned about the intellectual property. Now they require it.'
- 'CoreObjects took advantage of that.'
19:00 Risk of appearing on The Apprentice
21:00 Appearing on The Apprentice
- Being an entrepreneur 'helped us [Bill Rancic and I] to excel in the different tasks.'
- 'I did not attempt to be entertaining.'
24:00 The technology industry vs. real estate
- 'I am definitely going to be spending a lot more time in real estate.'
24:40 Trump projects
- 40 Wall Street
- Trump Tower Tampa
- Trump Ice - 'It's the best water ever!'
- 'The buck stops with me on Trump Ice.'
- 'I haven't had to fire anyone yet.'
26:55 Business vs. entertainment
- On Trump's firing style: 'That's for the cameras and that's a big part of the show.'
27:30 On New York
- 'New York is the center of the business universe.'
28:00 Trump Organization
- 'I think that sometime down the road Mr. Trump and I'll be working on stuff together.'
29:00 What's next?
- Proposals can be sent to Kelly's official Web site.
- Contact may be made through Kelly's LinkedIn profile.
30:30 Book deal
- Deal with Regnery Publishing.
32:40 Apprentice's impact on America
- 'The Apprentice allows for Monday morning quarterbacking for business.'
36:20 To do list for today
36:45 The future