VV Show #60 - Larry Kramer of MarketWatch

Download the MP3.

Larry Kramer

Today's media executives plotting to charge for their content would do well to hear how Larry Kramer beat Jim Cramer's TheStreet.com by resisting pressure to put most content behind a pay wall while not relying entirely on advertising. To the average consumer, MarketWatch.com seemed to have come out of nowhere during the late 1990s to quickly establish itself as one of the leading sources of online financial information. For MarketWatch founder Larry Kramer, it represented the last chapter of his 15 year journey as a first-time entrepreneur. Larry started his career as a journalist, going from reporter to the top editor of the San Francisco Examiner in just 10 years with stops at the Washington Post and Trenton Times along the way. Larry founded DataSport Inc. (the company that would eventually morph into MarketWatch though a series of mergers and partnerships) with $500,000 from friends and family. He almost ran out of money early on. After a wild ride on the public market, Larry sold MarketWatch to Dow Jones for over $500 million in 2004 and went on to become the president of CBS Digital Media until 2006. Hear how Larry lived though two different careers and what he's planning next.

1:30 Roots in Journalism, from paper boy to the Associated Press

3:25 "My whole career has been a series of breaks."

5:20 Covering Woodstock

6:00 Entered Harvard Business School to write about business

6:55 Experiences at The San Francisco Examiner and The Washington Post

12:00 From cub reporter to Editor-In-Chief

16:00 A move into industry at Data Broadcasting, maker of real-time stock quote delivery hardware broadcast over FM radio

18:00 Spun DataSport out of Data Broadcasting, adding sports to the signal during nights and weekends for "displaced fans"

21:30 Raised $500,000 from friends and family, "which I'll never do again," and partnered with The Sporting News for branding and marketing

24:40 Last minute feature: betting lines from Vegas, the "lifeblood" of the product

25:20 "So we ended up with a lot of gamblers as our customers."

25:45 Profit on paper, but running out of cash

26:50 DataSport purchased by Data Broadcasting

29:30 "Skunk works" internet project, DBC Online, building financial websites for newspapers, first client: USA Today

33:00 Spun out DBC Online and opened the site to everyone, monetized via advertising, partnered with CBS to create CBS MarketWatch

36:45 Incubating a new business within an old one

39:00 Pierson, owner of the Financial Times, buys DBC for its share in MarketWatch

42:00 An IPO at the height of the boom: $7M in sales but a $1B market capitalization

50:30 "I was worth $20M on paper that day."

52:40 Bought Big Charts for $160M with MarketWatch "currency," i.e. stock, for a second revenue stream and infrastructure

55:10 Big lesson from Big Charts: "have as many revenue streams as you can"

59:40 Sell the news but not the editorial expertise

1:00:20 Licensing news on other sites brought in another revenue stream, which allowed the site to survive the advertising slump

1:01:00 Competition with TheStreet.com

1:03:50 "Bloomberg is a fine business and makes a fortune, but they're a rarity."

1:05:15 "You need to be in the free universe to be searched, to be all the things that cause you to grow and gain stature in the world today."

1:08:15 On cash: "Your investors don't want you to be a bank, they can put their money in a bank."

1:10:15 On Dow Jones offer: "If they don't buy us they're going to compete with us."

1:11:30 The bidding war for MarketWatch ends in a $528M offer from Dow Jones

1:15:10 "When you get money, you immediately meet people with a lot more money."

1:18:00 Writing a book on the effect of the internet on not only media but all industries, "what's happening today is as big as the invention of the printing press"

1:21:40 "The biggest problem is companies trying to protect their business models not their products."

1:22:25 What's your ambition now? The book, journalism, teaching, corporate boards and "sharing what I've learned"

Posted by greg at 6:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #59 - Barry Silbert of SecondMarket

Download the MP3.

Barry Silbert

Any shareholder in a startup can tell you there's a big difference between paper wealth and cash. Short of an IPO or outright acquisition, there are few options to cash out for the shareholders of even the most thriving private companies. Barry Silbert is determined to change that with his company SecondMarket -- an exchange like the NASDAQ for private stock and other illiquid assets. He founded the company in 2004 focused on restricted stock, and quickly reached profitability with only $350,000 in angel funding. The road to this point was not without challenges; Barry's business partner was diagnosed with cancer and passed away as they were establishing the company. In 2008, SecondMarket made $20 million in revenue. Barry's success has not tempered his ambition as he's spent 2009 aggressively moving into new asset classes such as private companies (Facebook stock is already being traded on his platform), limited partner interest in venture capital firms and even California IOUs. Hear how this former bankruptcy banker did it and why he believes "The sky's the limit" for his business.

2:20 Early interest in entrepreneurship

2:50 Life after college: Bear Stearns, Smith Barney, & Houlihan Lokey

5:00 Why the switch to entrepreneurship?

5:15 His family thought he was crazy to leave banking to start a company: "I never told [my now-wife and family] how much money I was making [as a banker] until I had left"

6:15 The need for an illiquid asset market

8:30 Advice: Don't raise money. Don't build tech. Just start doing these transactions

10:00 Raised $350,000 in angel financing for SecondMarket

11:15 Early success in blocks of restricted stock

13:00 Matching buyers and sellers with a spreadsheet

13:50 Standardizing legal paperwork

15:15 Technology needed to scale was internal not external

16:30 The early team

17:15 Built first trading system in 2006

18:10 Revenue ramp: $1M in 2005, $2.5M in 2006, $5.5M in 2007, charging between 2-4% in fees

22:50 The passing of a partner

28:15 The value of marketplaces

29:15 "You're going to make hiring mistakes."

30:20 Raised $3.8M from FirstMark Capital for 25% of company, yielding a valuation of $15.2M, to apply the same model to different asset classes

31:55 $20M in 2008 revenue

32:15 A major opportunity in auction rate securities

37:15 New initiatives (asset classes) for the company: bankruptcy claims, limited partnership interests, toxic assets, private company stock, California IOUs

40:30 On launching a new market: "Generally speaking, it's not very expensive for us to start a new market."

41:50 On the private stock market: "This is the market we're most excited about right now."

43:10 "We've become the ad hoc market for Facebook stock."

46:00 "We've opened up SecondMarket to venture backed, private companies who want to raise another round."

50:25 "Private companies are staying private longer."

54:30 $1.5B in transactions in 5 years, $1B in last 12 months

59:20 How big can this market be? "The sky's the limit."

1:00:00 What do you spend your time on now?

1:01:20 "We have no plans to go public."

1:02:20 Parting thoughts for listeners

Posted by greg at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #58 - Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser of Grasshopper

Download the MP3.

Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser

"Dial 1 for sales, dial 2 for support..." Ten years ago it cost over $10,000 to get a phone system with the advanced options we're used to hearing when we call big companies. Having a professional-sounding phone system was a surprisingly big challenge for small businesses short on cash. Enter Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser who launched GotVMail to offer that service at rates starting at only $10 per month in 2003 as they were graduating college. They launched their business with under $200,000 in capital and never raised any more money. They bootstrapped their way to profitability quickly, and are now driving over $10 million in annual revenue. Despite their success, Siamak and David don't believe what's gotten them this far will take them to the next level. So they've just rebranded their company Grasshopper and are getting ready to launch some new products.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

3:15 Discovering a mutual love of entrepreneurship at Babson College

4:30 Entrepreneurial roots in cellular pager distribution and Return Path

8:00 Similar business models leads to a partnership

11:15 "It took us six months from shaking hands to turning up out first customer."

11:40 Early operations, developing the product, and balancing school

13:45 Low capital requirements (under $200k) through smart vendor deals

15:40 On falling technology costs: "If whoever is listening wants to get in the space and compete with us, you can do it a lot faster, easier and cheaper than we did."

16:10 Simple feature set allowed for easy building, but marketing took more thought

17:05 On marketing to entrepreneurs

19:10 "90% of [costs] went to developing the infrastructure."

21:00 Working with Google Adwords

24:20 On trust and working together

27:00 "We were never friends to begin, so there was never that conflict."

28:40 Advice for choosing business partners: "Find a partner that's an entrepreneur, and doesn't play a specific role."

30:15 Life after break-even

31:45 The continuing benefits of bootstrapping and a limited budget

35:30 "We've stopped outsourcing anything related to creating a brand."

39:30 On plateaus

42:30 From GotVMail to Grasshopper: "Forget telecommunications, but create a brand for entrepreneurs that provides tools and services that empowers them to succeed."

45:30 Why the Grasshopper name?

52:30 Maintaining growth and agility

53:45 Grasshopper today: 50 people, mainly tech; HQ in Needham, MA; office in Austin, TX

55:30 Getting the name out

1:01:15 Grasshopper as the "Virgin" brand for entrepreneurs

1:05:40 Future goals

Posted by greg at 4:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #57 - Fabrice Grinda of OLX

Download the MP3.

Graham Hill

Craigslist seems unbeatable. It's often blamed (or celebrated) for destroying the classifieds business that helped keep American newspapers afloat. Now second-time Venture Voice guest Fabrice Grinda is seeking to dominate online classifieds with OLX, his latest venture. Unlike Craigslist, OLX is translated into many languages and has a global focus. OLX is completely ad supported so there are no fees for job or real estate listings as there are on Craigslist. Still, it sounds crazy to compete with Craigslist. If anyone can do it, it may be Fabrice. When we interviewed him in December, 2005, it was on his last day working as CEO at Zingy, a ring tone provider that he founded and sold for $80 million against all odds. OLX already has 125 employees and 60 million unique visitors per month, but with $28.5 million is venture capital it has a lot of growth ahead of it before it's a success. Hear how Fabrice plans on getting there.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

Listen to the first interview with Fabrice on December, 2005

Read about OLX's launch in early 2006

A tour of Fabrice's office (listen to audio above for full interview):

0:02:39 Background, taking US internet ideas abroad

0:04:19 Creation of Zingy, bringing mobile content to the US in 2001, mostly with own money

0:05:04 Sold Zingy in 2004 for $80M, stayed on afterward.

0:07:04 The transition from owner to employee

0:08:44 Lessons from the sale

0:11:54 Owned over 50% of Zingy at time of sale

0:13:29 Life after Zingy, traveling and convincing friends to join the next startup, OLX.

0:16:29 OLX: "free classified for the world"

0:17:14 OLX plays on five trends: 1) movement toward online media consumption, 2) movement toward online advertising, 3) transition to ad-supported business models, 4) faster growth in developing world, and 5) transition to paid classified verticals in developed world (ex: HotJobs) while developing world still depends on newspapers.

0:18:34 "Let's build Craigslist 2.0 for the world."

0:19:14 Working from NYC with a team in Argentina lead by partner Alex Oxenford

0:20:24 Incorporated in March, 2006

0:22:44 On running an international startup: "It hasn't been that complicated."

0:26:19 On missing the office.

0:28:44 OLX today: live on June 1, 2006; 125 employees, 87 countries, 39 languages, 60M unique visitors/month

0:31:54 "At the beginning, you just want to keep it simple."

0:37:04 "We're not about to run out of ideas, because the vision here is how do we take a free classified site, that's horizontal and present in every category, and make it as good as every paid vertical site."

0:38:14 On competing with focused verticals: "Differentiation number one: we're free."

0:40:24 "Things that work in one country, typically work in another. That's true of the idea as a whole, it doesn't mean the execution of the idea is identical."

0:43:19 On buying international domain names (shout out to marcaria.com)

0:47:44 Financing OLX: first $500K self-funded, VC follow-up at a "very generous offer"

0:49:09 $10M Series A round in Fall 2006 and $18.5M in early 2008.

0:51:49 On boards and VCs.

0:58:44 Threats to OLX: 1) deep-pocketed competition 2) market risk of low global CPMs and currency fluctuations

1:03:14 On the ease of marketing with Google

1:05:19 "Google is a curse and a blessing."

1:07:39 What's next for OLX?

1:10:54 "As an economist, this is a dream job."

1:11:49 Advice for current entrepreneurs: "Now is the best time to start a business."

Posted by greg at 6:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

VV Show #56 - Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software

Download the MP3.

Joel Spolsky

Joel Spolsky first came on Venture Voice over three years ago to discuss his company which he launched in a very different way from most entrepreneurs. Rather than start with the big idea and pay lip service to building a great team, Joel focused on getting great programmers first. The ideas came second. Good thing because his big idea, a content management system called City Desk, never took off. Instead it was his small idea, software to track bugs in other software called FogBugz, that became a cash cow for his company Fog Creek Software. This small idea has provided the funding for his company to expand into three other product lines, all with just $50,000 in seed capital from Joel's savings account invested when Fog Creek was started. Since we last caught up with Joel, he's moved into a new office in Lower Manhattan that sports closed offices for all of his programmers and a large area where free lunch is served every day (eat your heart out Google). Listen to how Joel's expanded his business.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

2:25 Original vision for Fog Creek Software (now four products: Copilot, FogBugz, Stack Overflow, and the Joel on Software Job Board) - listen to Joel's first interview on Venture Voice in 2005

3:35 From content management to bug tracking software

4:35 "Content management was taken over by blog tools."

5:05 Copilot: remote tech support tool, grew out of an internship project.

6:30 Shifted Copilot from a day pass to a subscriber model

8:00 "FogBugz is the cash cow."

8:45 On developing products with interns

10:35 Managing many products vs. few

13:40 Copilot today: "growing well... a nice side business"

14:25 Zero marketing: "We've experimented with AdWords and never got anywhere... There are certain categories for which it works and a certain category of thing for which it's a waste of time."

15:10 FogBugz: Bug tracking and coordination software

15:50 Licensing vs. Software-As-A-Service

17:05 On the fear and need for data security in online services

20:05 "We probably run FogBugz a lot better than our customers can... That is not necessarily true of other software-as-a-service providers."

21:50 "Because we were a bootstrapped company, we had to reach a certain critical mass before we felt we could host FogBugz at the level of quality our customers expect."

22:20 If creating FogBugz from scratch today

25:10 "If you're in a business with network effects, you probably want to get big fast, and that means you want to get outside investment... and you also want to take a lot of risks."

25:50 "It's a lot easier to start a software-as-a-service business today."

26:50 "We don't try and predict the future."

29:00 More revenue per user via software-as-a-service.

30:25 The economic downturn hurts new subscriber growth, but current subscribers still pay.

31:40 "As a startup, I would not build something to be installed locally."

36:35 "We don't really make deadlines. We just try to estimate when something is going to happen."

39:50 Stack Overflow: "programmer Q&A website where programmers ask questions and get answers."

45:55 "I pretty much ignored all of my rules when I built Stack Overflow."

47:00 600,000 page-views per day, closing in on 300,000 visits per day, that number is doubling every 4 months

51:00 86% of Stack Overflow traffic comes from search, because the site was built for search from the ground up

58:15 On Fog Creek: "We're the beacon on the hill."

59:25 On prioritization

59:50 "We don't have any kind of outside board of advisors."

1:01:10 Big projects for this year: FogBugz 7, new features in Copilot, Business Software conference, Stack Overflow World Tour, software development documentary

1:07:35 Parting thoughts

Posted by greg at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #55 - Graham Hill of TreeHugger

Download the MP3.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill started the blog TreeHugger to cover green issues in 2003. After a steady climb in traffic and advertising, Graham sold the company to Discovery Communications in 2007 for $10 million. Since launch and even after the acquisition, Graham ran his business virtually. Graham lived in different cities from New York to Barcelona while working many hours to grow his company. His team of writers, ad sales people and developers chatted over Skype, got paid through PayPal and used Google documents to collaborate. Simultaneously, Graham launched a ceramic version of the iconic New York paper coffee cup (video below). Listen to how Graham built his businesses without an office or home town.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

2:30 Studying architecture and product design at Carlton University & Emily Carr University of Art + Design

3:20 Ceramic coffee cups replicas at We Are Happy to Serve You, launched late 2003

6:30 Started a web development firm, sold for "millions of dollars."

8:45 "As a boyscout I would sell the most calendars... I was a good salesman."

10:20 Regarding the coffee cup: "I was very persistent in finding out who had the license."

11:55 "Once we got the MOMA, everything changed."

12:20 "It's a consistent theme. I look back at Siteworks, the web development company. When you get that key client, it really changes things for you. When we landed Microsoft it made all the other sales that much easier."

15:50 The origin of TreeHugger

18:15 On TreeHugger: "It's pretty much what I set out to do."

18:18 "Green equaled hippie."

19:13 "So I wanted to, basically, make green cool and convenient."

22:00 "I think that for-profits play a really important role in socially, environmentally progressive areas... The advantage is that, as we start to get some traction, we prove that there's a market there."

24:48 "You want to set the DNA for the company being scrappy."

25:20 Launched TreeHugger on "a couple grand"

28:00 Price per post: "started at $10 & $15... [now] a bunch up from that"

28:35 On-site advertising: "The ads should be part of the content."

33:00 On working virtually

33:45 "Paypal made the company."

35:30 "We've put some effort into marketing but it's never really worked that well."

36:00 Virtual Tools: GMail, Google Docs, Paypal & Skype w/ "water cooler"

40:45 Does it get lonely working virtually?

41:50 TreeHugger stats: Reached profitability in 2006, prior to acquisition, on $150,000 out the door. Hit a "couple million" pageviews a month. Monetized primarily through advertising using a number of ad networks. In 2007, 60/40 direct ad sales/ networks. Did well with AdSense, "green is good."

46:20 Work-a-holic: "The concept of taking a weekend off is still a new one."

46:45 "My role is taking something from nothing to something... That my interest. That's where I add value."

48:30 Discovery acquires TreeHugger

50:15 Mechanics of an acquisition

50:40 "We could bring on a banker, but we wouldn't be a big deal to them."

54:50 TreeHugger acquired for $10MM

57:15 Thoughts on the future

57:50 Planet Green: "The first 24-hour eco-lifestyle channel" and website from Discovery. "Planet Green is about getting people to take action."

58:50 What gets you excited? Aviation: "I can be green in most of my life, except flying is a very hard thing for me." Also, kite surfing.

1:00:30 Parting thoughts for entrepreneurs: 1) "Raising money can be dangerous." 2) "Do something you're really interested. It is said and it can't be said enough." 3) "Most of the people listening to this... don't have a lot to lose... so take some risks."

Posted by greg at 11:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #54 - Tim Westergren of Pandora

Download the MP3.

Tim Westergren

It takes only a few seconds to customize a radio station on Pandora. Its founder Tim Westergren has been struggling for almost a decade to make it that way. Pandora was five years in the making before it streamed a single song to a user. For over two of those years the company was completely broke. While Tim convinced employees to defer over $1 million in salaries, Pandora underwent several changes in name, product and revenue models. Now Pandora is a leading online radio destination that’s starting to bring in sizable ad revenue. Tim is still battling with the record industry for its survival.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

2:40 - Studying music technology at Stanford

4:30 - "The world of the working musician" and the advent of desktop recording

5:45 - The Music Genome Project, the underpinnings of Pandora

8:15 - Early entrepreneurial experience: band manager and self-employed film composer

8:50 - Single greatest challenge of building a business: "Attracting, retaining and managing the best talent you can."

9:40 - Writing the first genome and starting Savage Beast Technologies (the precursor to Pandora) - "the first phase was euphoric"

12:10 - "We thought we were building a recommendation tool for other businesses."

12:45 - "A year after we started, we began to sense that money was going to be a challenge."

14:30 - Bank account at zero

15:40 - "The company deferred about a million and a half dollars of salary. So, people really did sacrifice an awful lot."

17:40 - "In [20]04 when we finally raised a big round of investment... we had no business. We had this incredible piece of intellectual property."

19:10 - "Music discovery... is a huge problem and there's a big appetite for it... and this thing we build was the perfect way to solve it. So, we just had to figure out how to bring it to market."

19:45 - Why were you able to raise money in 2004 and not 2002?: 1) Impressive client list 2) "We had demonstrated a real entrepreneurial ability as a company."

21:55 - "I can't blame anyone who, back then, decided to quit. That was a perfectly rational decision."

22:05 - "The company should not have survived. Really, we were dead. We were financially insolvent on paper for two years."

23:35 - Raised $9MM in 2004 with a focus on web enabled kiosks for record stores.

24:00 - Hired Joe Kennedy as CEO, "re-purposed the business for radio."

26:10 - Leaving the CEO role: "It's not a job that I really wanted."

26:50 - "My time is best spent doing strategy and evangelism."

29:20 - Building and launching the new product, Pandora.

32:15 - Limited release in Fall 2005

33:00 - $12MM round in November 2005, went "free" shortly after and "took off like a rocket ship."

34:00 - "We've never spent any marketing money on Pandora... Gave it to bloggers and they became our evangelists."

36:00 - "If you make good choices with your personnel and your product, they tend to line up."

36:35 - "Growth was our focus in the beginning, growth and also the building of a brand and our identity."

37:50 - "Now we're at revenue per hour. That's an important metric for us."

38:55 - "We thought it was going to be a subscription business" "It was pretty clear, people weren't going to pay for radio."

41:00 Question for Tim from VC Martin Gedalin submitted over Twitter: "How can you create ad engagement with naturally disengaged audience?"

41:30 - Pandora audience: surprisingly engaged, "comes back to the site six times an hour."

42:15 - Doubling annually, $20MM in revenue last year, "it's all going in the right direction"

42:20 - "It takes a lot of effort. We have a 45 person advertising sales team."

42:50 - "We're not profitable but that's largely due to the performance fees we pay, the per-song fees."

43:10 - Industry and rate structure

44:55 - "Pandora was the only company that would be able to fight this fight."

45:50 - On audio advertising

47:00 - On the recording industry and the RIAA: "I think we're part of the solution, not the problem."

47:40 - "The business doesn't support the level of taxation they're pushing for."

49:15 - On starting a business in the music industry (responding to Venrock VC and former eMusic CEO David Pakman's post): "There are lots of landmines."

50:55 - Current snapshot of Pandora: "We've built a genuine ad platform."

52:00 - "I'm confident [the licensing issue] will get resolved. Nobody stands to gain by not resolving it."

53:00 - "We see an opportunity to really redefine radio and do it globally, and do it in every musical genre... and to, at the same time, change the plight of the working musician."

Posted by greg at 3:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

VV Show #53 - David Cohen of TechStars

Download the MP3.

David Cohen

The title financier conjures images of mahogany desks and million dollar checks for most. But for anyone pitching to David Cohen's TechStars, the outcome is getting accepted to what's essentially a summer camp for entrepreneurs in Colorado and being offered a check of $18,000 or less in exchange for 6% of the startup. This two year old program is part of a new trend in structured angel investing and mentoring that was started by Paul Graham's Y Combinator. Two companies founded at TechStars have already been acquired: socialthing! was sold to AOL and Intense Debate was sold to Automattic (the makers of WordPress). David tells his own stories of success and failure as an entrepreneur, and his transiton to becoming an angel investor.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

2:30 Entrepreneurial beginnings

3:00 Pinpoint Technologies, sold in 1999

5:10 First foray into angel investing: "To me, the first year of every company I've done is the most fun."

6:05 Angel Investing 101: "Your first deal as an angel investor is about learning."

9:30 Evolution of an angel: "Wanted to see more deals... and invest outside of Colorado."

11:30 Typical angel investment: "Pre-revenue is the norm."

12:50 Birth of TechStars

14:25 Original Investment in TechStars: Under $250,000, "I was just doing it for the equity."

16:15 "The earlier the better. If you're passionate about starting a company, go do it now. It's only going to get harder..."

17:00 The TechStars pitch: "TechStars is not about the money... it's really about the mentorship we provide... we like to be viewed as a co-founder."

19:15 Why 5% equity: "It felt right and it's proven right."

21:10 Response to the low valuation argument

22:15 Seed funding and geography: "You can't do it anywhere, but you could do it in any reasonable start-up community."

23:55 The TechStars experience

27:00 Current state of TechStars

28:10 Status of the first class: 10 companies, 2 acquisitions (Social Thing, Intense Debate), others doing well (Filtrbox, Brightkite), one defunct

31:50 Hidden benefit of TechStars: free/streamlined legal services

37:05 How to justify an angel round after TechStars: "I don't think it's enough anymore, with most investors, to just say we're going to build something that everyone's going to love... and we'll figure out how to monetize it."

38:30 Trends in team composition: "The sure thing with a software company is you better have at least one, true rockstar developer who's really committed and vested."

40:40 How to find rockstar techies

42:00 TechStars and the current economy: "Good companies are still going to get funded. So it's more important than ever to build a good company."

45:14 Applying to TechStars: Applications opened January 19th, close March 21st. Simple application with 15 questions. Video submissions now accepted.

47:30 "The model beyond TechStars, to me, represents a rare triple-win."

49:25 Closing thoughts: "Just do it. Surround yourself with great people. Good things will happen."

Posted by greg at 2:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

VV Show #52 - Sam Wyly of Maverick Capital, Green Mountain Energy, Michaels Stores and Sterling Software

Download the MP3.

Sam Wyly

Not to be called a one trick pony, Sam Wyly's turned himself into a billionaire by starting and growing companies in technology, oil, retail and even in the restaurant industry. Coming from a modest upbringing, Sam worked in sales at IBM and Honeywell before founding University Computing in 1963 at age 29 with just "$1,000 and an idea" as he puts it in his book of that title. The company IPOed and grew to over 5,000 people. Sam hired CEOs and stayed an entrepreneur. He's founded and acquired numerous companies including Bonanza Steakhouse (grew to 600 restaurants), Earth Resources Company, Sterling Software (sold for $3.3 billion), Sterling Commerce (sold for $4 billion), arts-and-crafts chain Michaels (sold for $6 billion), Maverick Capital (a hedge fund with over $10 billion under management) and clean-energy producer Green Mountain Energy. Despite being soft-spoken, Sam's fought and won several high profile proxy fights. Sam's been undeterred as several of his ventures have had visible failures over the years and he's lost audacious bids to take over Western Union and Computer Associates. On the whole, Sam's created a huge amount of value that's put him on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people. Hear how he does it.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice

3:00 - A modest family background

7:00 - The early years: high school football, Louisiana State Legislature, Louisiana Tech, Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

14:45 - Computing infancy at IBM: selling "computing as a service"

15:45 - The sales side of IBM

18:15 - Recruited by Honeywell: "I didn't care about the money. I cared about being a manager."

20:15 - University Computing begins: "I wanted to start my own company... I looked around for who could be my customers."

25:00 - Leveraging $1,000 and a 5 year guaranteed contract into a $600,000 used computer

28:20 - University Computing goes public: "The original public investors in four years made one hundred times their money. That was a real fun time."

29:55 - A growing empire: using University Computing interest to buy Bonanza Steakhouse and start Earth Resources, an oil refinery and mining company

31:45 - The steakhouse business

32:40 - Earth Resources: big bet on unleaded gasoline and the battle to sell

37:25 - A rough economy: shutdown of University Computing in 1976

44:40 - Current company: Green Mountain Energy, "It's in the monopoly busting business... It's kind of my third time around in monopoly busting."

46:25 - "Texas was the only state that wrote a really free market electricity deregulation law and we've done real, real well here. It's probably the most successful green company in America."

46:55 - On CleanTech: "It's going to be a great industry."

47:10 - Small company acquires a large one: Sterling Software buys Informatics with the help of Michael Milken and the junk bond market

54:15 - Business partner and brother Charles Wyly: "Mostly we've done everything together."

56:00 - Differences in style: "I've always been the more conceptual type."

58:25 - Business vs. politics as a career

59:15 - Political affiliations and thoughts on Barack Obama

1:02:00 - The modest life of a billionaire

1:03:45 - Advice for entrepreneurs: "Most people have to figure things out for themselves."

Posted by greg at 9:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #51 - Jeff Stewart of Mimeo, Monitor110 and Urgent Career

Download the MP3.

Jeff Stewart

Jeff Stewart needed that done yesterday. Jeff became an entrepreneur when he founded the web consultancy Square Earth in 1995. Only three years later he became a serial entrepreneur by starting Mimeo, a service that lets you send a file directly from your computer to be printed, bound and shipped overnight. Mimeo struggled in the dot com crash of 2000-2001 just as it was getting off the ground. Jeff was able to pull Mimeo though the downturn despite almost running out of cash, which has allowed the company to flourish and make $55.4 million in 2007 revenues. Ironically, Jeff didn't have the same success in good economic times with ample cash after he raised $20 million for Monitor110. He discusses the company's shutdown and lessons learned. Now Jeff's focused on allowing businesses to hire good salespeople faster with Urgent Career. He announces on this show for the first time that he's just raised a six-figure angel round to speed up Urgent Career's success.

1:35 Entrepreneurial beginnings: yard work - "They paid me for it and I was hooked."

2:25 College at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, early experience in management consulting, and first exposure to the internet.

5:15 Business ideas for a young internet

7:00 Dealing with misfires and a return to consulting "We had a big competitive advantage: we owned suits."

9:55 "Consulting companies are not particularly good businesses. There's only so many hours in a day and you can only hire so many good people."

11:53 Exiting the consulting business: "I'm a believer that you only get to sell you business once, so you should do it often."

12:14 "You only get to sell your business once, so you should do it often."

13:05 The origins of Mimeo: "It was a bad idea in 1992, but by 1998 it was a great idea."

17:05 Early financials: $20M round of financing, expected to be followed by $300-$400M round in preparation for a $1B+ IPO.

20:05 Keys for success through the downturn: Highly scalable business, a real business problem that needed to be solved, and a huge market

21:45 Reducing headcount

24:20 Raising money in a down market

27:10 "My memory of 2001 was pitching to raise money and firing people."

28:50 The state of Mimeo today

31:20 "Mimeo focuses on career critical documents." "Talking with the customer really differentiates ourselves."

32:45 On leaving Mimeo and finding a new CEO

34:30 "It's a lot easier to start a business if you already have customers."

35:05 The genesis of Monitor110

38:00 Long-term needs of Monitor110: 1) real-time, 2) internet scale, 3) Boolean and Bayesian matching systems, i.e. powerful algorithms

38:40 Halted production on alpha version to focus on beta version: "a major strategic error"

39:40 "Raised close to $20 million... found out it was going to take longer than expected."

42:00 Winding down the company (Jeff's business partner wrote a Monitor110 post mortem)

44:20 Comparing Mimeo and Monitor110

47:10 Lessons learned: 1) "I no longer believe in Hail Mary business models." 2) "Focus on business models that aren't so capital intensive."

50:40 The next idea: Urgent Group, explore business models that are more efficient with our customers time.

52:40 Major problem: "The governing factor for growth is ... how quickly can you scale the sales team... You just couldn't get enough great sales people fast enough."

53:55 "Even at Mimeo... a lot of the venture dollars went to hiring sales people who didn't work out."

54:10 Launched Urgent Career, find and screen sales people using computational linguistics, i.e. figure out the quality of salespeople and the type of sales they are best suited for, focusing on fast growth companies.

57:55 Current state of Urgent Career: ten employees with a six-figure angel round plus personal investment.

59:00 How do you determine how much to raise in an angel round?

1:01:25 Dabbling in GreenTech: "GreenTech will make the telecom bubble and the internet bubble look like a speed bump."

1:04:00 "I believe there are plenty of opportunities in GreenTech that can be done in a capital efficient manner."

1:05:00 What's keeping back GreenTech: "The bottleneck is not enough entrepreneurs digging into this."

Posted by greg at 10:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #50 - Derek Sivers of CD Baby and Muckwork

Download the MP3.

Derek Sivers

Last time Derek Sivers was on Venture Voice three years ago he told us he had to "whack 'em [investors] off with a stick". Now we know why. Derek announces on our show for the first time the amount he sold his company for this past summer: $22 million. Derek owned 100% of the equity. Though he might have made more money than most of his fellow music entrepreneurs, Derek's no Gordon Gekko. In this interview, Derek tells us how he put all of his money from the sale into a charitable trust, that he didn't even visit CD Baby's office once during the last year he owned it, and what he's up to next.

Want more Venture Voice? Become a Venture Voice member or contact us about sponsoring the show.

1:29 Flashback 3 years ago (to his first VV appearance): 50 employees, $25M revenue, no plans to ever sell "till the day I die"

2:00 The CD Baby story

4:13 CD Baby in early 2008, what (or who) had changed / "Hitting the wall"

6:55 January 18th, 2008: The decision to sell, "On my sister's birthday, coincidentally"

9:30 Snapshot of CD Baby early 2008: 85 employees, $100M Revenue, 200,000 albums, but "I hadn't actually been to the office in over a year."

10:10 Living the 4-Hour Work Week in London
Book reference #1 - 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, "He was preaching to the converted."

11:50 "I really started letting go in 2002."

12:00 The perils of owning your own company

14:55 "I've been fascinated by what I did wrong."

15:05 Book reference #2 - What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith & Mark Reiter, "Reading this book it sounds like the guy had been living inside CD Baby, studying me, and wrote a whole book about what not to do."

17:15 Book reference #3 - Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, & Charles Burck, "Brilliant book about ... how to take things that are goals or things you want to make happen and how to follow through to make sure they happen."

20:20 Book reference #4 - How to Get Rich
by Felix Dennis, "Never, never, never give anyone a piece of your business."

22:30 CD Baby is sold for $22M to Disc Makers

24:17 Book reference #5 - The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, "I've learned to be a good enough kind of guy"

26:00 The Art of the Deal: "We ended up in the same place later but the bankers were happy."

30:35 Has the money changed your lifestyle?

31:25 The Willy Wonka idea

34:00 The Independent Musician's Charitable Trust: "I didn't even want the money... It's all just going back to the musicians."

36:20 Muckwork and other new projects: "It's all about helping my musician friends... This is what I'd do anyway, even if it pays nothing."

41:10 Muckwork in detail: "An army of assistants that can help musicians do all of the uncreative, boring dirty-work that needs to be done."

44:30 "You don't have to do anything"

46:55 Attention listeners in need of advice: "I'm more available than I used to be so drop me an email."

47:00 "Venture Voice rules... I wonder if I wasn't allowed to tell you some of the stuff I just told you. I guess we'll find out."

Posted by greg at 11:55 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

VV Show #49 - Rafat Ali of paidContent and contentNext

Download the MP3.

Rafat Ali

Attention entrepreneurs dealing with the current economic downturn: This interview is for you. After working as a journalist for Jason Calacanis at Silicon Alley Reporter, Rafat Ali ended up broke in a market with a dearth of employment opportunities. To try to find a new job, Rafat created paidContent.org as an "interactive resume." Luckily, no one hired him. From these humble beginnings, Rafat bootstrapped his blog holding company, ContentNext Media, for four years before taking a small investment from famed media investor Alan Patricof in June 2006. From its inception paidContent has doubled revenues each year and was recently acquired by UK-based Guardian Media Group for a rumored $30 million. Listen in as Rafat outlines the past, present, and future of online media, while sharing his war stories from another uncertain economic time.

1:35 Early career
3:25 Worked for Jason Calacanis
4:48 Working at Inside.com - "Timing was all wrong."
7:50 Learning on the job with paidContent, "I had no idea, zero idea."
8:45 Growing and getting the word out - "It really did spread by word of mouth. There was no other way."
9:20 Launch of mocoNews.net, a sister site covering the mobile space
9:45 June 4th, 2002: The exact genesis of paidContent
10:57 "People thought that you would have to pay to access websites because the online advertising market had crashed."
11:33 paidContent covers "all the ways in which content gets paid for."
11:45 paidContent becomes a full time gig
14:03 Heeding the advice of Seth Godin: "A downturn is the best time to start a company."
14:15 "I actually did e-mail [Seth Godin] a couple of years after that 'you were one of the catalysts that helped me decide'... and he never e-mailed me back. And I'm kind of still angry about that..."
15:05 Early days and a limited budget
15:30 "There were at least two times I remember when my bank [account] had zero balance."
17:23 Advice to entrepreneurs: Get your finances straight
18:53 The blogging lifestyle
19:04 "I had a phone and an internet connection. That's all you really needed in my business."
19:47 Early attention and awards
21:11 Was it fun?
22:04 From a blog to a business
25:10 Early revenues: "high five figures" after 2.5 years
28:20 4 years of bootstrapping: First investment came in June 2006
28:58 On receiving "a few hundred thousand" in financing from media investor Alan Patricof: "his validation was huge for us." They never raised any more money.
30:15 The financing process
32:18 On Alan Patricof: "Immediately I felt like he got (our business)."
33:11 Giving structure to the business
35:32 Post-funding growth: new sites (contentSutra, "covering India's digital content market"), conferences, seminars, research reports, and jobs sections
42:41 Main revenue streams: conferences, advertising, and sponsorships
43:40 Biting the hand that feeds you, i.e. reporting on your own advertisers
46:43 Competition: "It's not a cliche... having competitors in the market helps you define yourself." Note: One of the competitors was co-founded by Kevin Ryan
48:48 On dealing with the rumor mill: "We don't publish rumors."
50:45 "A gossip rag is tough to monetize."
51:23 "You can't define blogging as one industry."
53:22 "We will probably see some more consolidation in the [online media] industry [in the next six to nine months.]"
54:40 Current state of ContentNext: 25-27 people, will add more but being careful, given the current economy
55:40 A "few million" in revenue
55:52 "We've doubled our revenue every year... and are on track to do it this year."
56:17 On the economic slump: "Because we have multiple revenue streams in multiple countries, we will be able to weather [the downturn] a lot better."
57:03 The exit: ContentNext is acquired by Guardian Media Group
60:00 On exit multiples: "Typically some of the big traditional media companies -- and we are not big and we are not traditional -- get anywhere from 3-5x forward looking revenues."
60:51 Keeping the deal quiet: "Tried to keep it quiet... but somebody beat us to it."
64:38 Rafat's advice for media entrepreneurs in the current market
67:10 What's next for paidContent?

Posted by greg at 11:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #48 - Frank Addante of The Rubicon Project

Download the MP3.

Frank Addante

Whether working with market trends or against them, Frank Addante has found entrepreneurial success. Before he was 29 years old, one of Frank's companies went public and two were acquired. At his worse, he returned capital to investors. Suffering from serial entrepreneurship, Frank left the Illinois Institute of Technology just four classes shy of his degree. His companies range from an early search engine to a Sequoia Capital-backed enterprise email solution. Now Frank aspires to be a web publisher’s best friend with his new ad network optimization service that he says is boosting their clients' revenues by 30-300%. Listen in as Frank details his ongoing entrepreneurial journey.

1:05 Company #1: Start off with Starting Point – a “card catalog for the internet”
2:20 Decision to leave college and the early days at Starting Point
3:30 Early days of online advertising.
5:11 Life after Starting Point
5:50 Entrepreneurship in Chicago
7:20 Company #2: L90 and Ad Monitor, a focus on advertising technology
8:30 “CEO without the title”
9:15 Comparisons to DoubleClick (Listen to DoubleClick's former CEO on Venture Voice)
10:30 The myth of competing cultures in early advertising
13:25 Surviving a bursting bubble through acquisition
14:34 Thoughts on net-worth volatility
16:03 Leaving L90

19:25 Company #3: Zondigo

23:45 Company #4: Addante & Associates, an incubator, turns into StrongMail Systems
27:00 Moving StrongMail to the Valley and “the Sequoia connection”
32:05 On taking advice and the “not right now” list
34:38 Company #5: The Rubicon Project

38:01 The Rubicon Project in a nutshell

40:20 The importance of “the team”
41:38 On moving quickly: “Go fast but don’t hurry.”
42:25 Smooth sailing, so far.

44:00 On concern from ad networks: “Change will be beneficial for everyone.”

47:00 Stats: 60 top ad network, over 4,000 publishers, 40 employees, $21 million raised
47:20 Thoughts on the future of The Rubicon Project
48:35 Advice for entrepreneurs

Frank's Blog: FounderBlog

Frank's pitch for LA:

Posted by greg at 7:00 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

VV Show #47 - Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins

Download the MP3.

Tom Perkins

The name Tom Perkins is now almost synonymous with venture capital, but it's clear that he cut his teeth as an entrepreneur. Educated at MIT and Harvard, Perkins first made his mark by managing the initial growth of Hewlett-Packard’s computer business while simultaneously inventing the first cheap and reliable laser. The company he built around the laser, University Laboratories, made him independently wealthy and allowed for the creation of Kleiner Perkins, one of the most successful venture capital firms in existence. Kleiner Perkins (now Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) has funded a wide range of well known and wildly successful companies including Google, AOL, Genentech, Sun Microsystems, Compaq, and Tandem Computers. Though Tom's wowed the business press for much of his career, later in life he's gained national attention for having a key role in 2006 Hewlett-Packard board controversy, briefly marrying Danielle Steel, and building the world's largest privately owned sailing yacht. Tom has recently stepped back into the media spotlight by publishing a memoir called Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins. Listen in as he discusses his journey from New York to Boston to Silicon Valley, the creation of Kleiner Perkins, and his advice for the entrepreneurs of the future.

3:00 Early ambitions: the road to MIT.
4:40 From Theoretical Physics to the Harvard Business School.
6:15 Introduced to the Hewlett- Packard company: “a great stroke of luck.”
6:52 “Dave Packard taught me everything I ever learned about entrepreneurship.”
8:42 Simultaneously running HP’s computer business and University Laboratories.
11:15 Thoughts on moonlighting and Google’s 20% time.
12:23 Why not jump ship with University Laboratories? “It was a very tough decision [but] I was so fascinated by the computer business, which was growing explosively.”
13:40 Dave Packard: the first modern VC.
14:30 The Kleiner Perkins model: A “hands on” approach to VC.
15:00 First KP fund: $8 million, largest ever at the time.
15:25 The admirable ethics of venture capital.
19:00 Early KP hits: Tandem Computers & Genentech.
20:15 “Our philosophy was that you find the idea and not the individual.”
22:39 “We’ve never financed anything that’s come to us through the mail or over the Internet.”
23:40 The “Intensive Care Unit” at KP.
26:30 Biggest mistake: “Not funding Apple Computer."
29:02 Thoughts on the modern day venture capital industry: “There’s always been too much money in venture capital.”
31:15 Thoughts on entrepreneurship and venture capital outside of Silicon Valley: “It’s a difference of psychology.”
34:40 Valley Boy, the Tom Perkins memoir.
36:40 Working on the News Corp. board.
41:30 On his own depiction in the media: “A venture capitalist should be behind the scenes… I yield the arena of self-promotion to no one, although Paris Hilton is gaining ground there.”
43:00 Current activities: sailing and submarining.
44:30 Recent comments on the science of global warming.
44:54 Biotechnology: “I still think we’re on the ground floor.”
46:00 Advice for new entrepreneurs.

Posted by greg at 4:44 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

VV Show #46 - Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp

Download the MP3.

Jeremy Stoppelman

Jeremy Stoppelman is the co-founder and CEO of Yelp, a site where users can write and share reviews of local businesses. Everyone's now a restaurant critic. However, local reviews were not the original focus, but just one of several features in the earlier versions of the site. Noticing the growth of this buried feature, Yelp re-tooled the site around reviews and hasn't looked back since. Does this story sound familiar? Jeremy's the former VP of Engineering at PayPal, which also had to drastically alter its business early in its life. Listen in to hear Jeremy's thoughts on growing a local enterprise, giving users and identity, and how to recognize and act upon the need for change.

1:45 Early Internet experience

3:10 Uniqueness of Paypal

6:00 Switch to business school, but why?

7:05 What was the value of B-school?

9:30 Yelp is born

11:06 Yelp, an evolution not a revolution

13:25 Earlier on, what did the company look like?

15:25 How did you know when it was right to change the strategy?

18:50 Please yourself

19:30 Catering to a female audience

22:15 Strategy discussions

25:12 Citysearch differentiators?

26:40 How do you make it popular?

30:10 Yelp gets Googled

32:50 Expansion beyond the Bay

36:30 Competition?

37:18 Revenue model

38:42 Is Yelp a tough sell?

40:07 How do you scale a local business?

41:01 Current state of Yelp

43:20 Biggest challenges?

45:45 Any desire to grow faster to secure a large buyout?

47:10 Words of wisdom

Posted by greg at 7:23 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

VV Show #45 - Kevin Ryan of Panther Express, ShopWiki and Music Nation

Download the MP3.


Not many entrepreneurs have a motor like Kevin Ryan's. Kevin is best known for his work as CEO at the on-line advertising firm DoubleClick, which he grew from a 20 person start-up to the largest Internet company in New York at the height of the dot-com boom. After escaping the ensuing bust in an arguably improved strategic position, the company has since changed hands twice. In June 2005, the company was sold to the private equity firm of Hellman and Friedman for $1.1 billion and has made headlines yet again with its recent acquisition by Google for an astonishing $3.1 billion. Yet, this success has not slowed Kevin one bit. Since departing DoubleClick, he has already launched three start-ups, with plans for a fourth this summer. Listen in, as Kevin describes his DoubleClick experiences in both boom and bust, outlines his new start-ups, and explains why now is as good a time as ever to start a company, especially in the Big Apple.

2:00 Early career

3:55 The Internet according to Dilbert

4:43 Focus on advertising

6:10 What differentiated DoubleClick?

8:10 The DoubleClick alumni club

8:42 Lessons learned as CEO

10:42 Dealing with mistakes

12:38 Money management

13:09 The IPO

14:03 The boom goes bust

15:30 Lay-offs began and continued

17:57 A changing business model

19:10 Exit strategies

20:00 New ventures

25:05 Start-up #1: Panther Express

28:48 Keeping it lean: the benefits of a small office

32:30 Start-up #2: ShopWiki

35:15 Time: the most limited resource

36:40 Start-up #3: Music Nation

39:55 Best entrepreneurial locations

42:17 Current health of the start-up market

46:04 Start-up #4!

46:35 Advice to entrepreneurs

Posted by greg at 12:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

VV Show #44 - Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage (part 2)

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage

Marketing a startup is tricky business. Every entrepreneur faces the dilemma between allocating time to improving the product and marketing the product. If the two can be mixed just right, then perhaps sterile marketing can go viral. We tackle that issue in part 2 of 3 of our very own Venture Voice Startup Workshop coverage in New York City. David Hornik of August Capital leads the session, but he doesn’t finish uninterrupted as the entrepreneurs on the panel jump in.

In this episode:
David Hornik of August Capital
Tom Szaky of TerraCycle
Dick Costolo of FeedBurner

4:30 Marketing, sales and PR

12:30 Viral marketing

25:15 Best practice

25:30 Q&A

Posted by greg at 2:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #43 - Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and Next New Networks

Download the MP3.

Before the rise of the Internet, cable TV was the new form of distribution remaking the entertainment business. Life-long entrepreneur and former jazz producer Fred Seibert pioneered that field, and is known in the industry for branding MTV (remember their ever-changing animated logo) and Nickelodeon (remember Nick-at-Nite). While he was figuring out what to do next, Ted Turner hired him to be president of the then-struggling Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio. Fred turned the famous studio around and kept his hand in the cable business until some friends dragged him into the Internet business. He now runs Frederator Studios which produces several cable and Internet TV shows. He also just launched a new well-funded startup called Next New Networks to create Internet TV networks.

1:30 Getting started as an entrepreneur

5:10 Criteria for selecting a business idea

6:30 Getting into the cartoon business

12:45 Creative types verses suits

17:15 Fixing Hanna-Barbera

34:00 The Internet

55:45 Starting Frederator

59:00 Content

61:00 The value of Next New Networks

67:00 Bad blog reception

73:30 Starting a company

Fred’s book: Original Cartoons: The Frederator Studio Postcards

Posted by greg at 1:50 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

VV Show #42 - Simon Daniel of USBcell

Download the MP3.

Simon Daniel

The battery is an afterthought for most inventors. All the fun seems to be in developing a device, not in powering it. But when was the last time you cursed your phone, camera or podcast player because it ran out of batteries? Simon Daniel got fed up with his batteries, and decided to do something about it. He invented the USBcell, a standard sized battery (yes, it comes in AA) that can recharge using any USB port. This isn’t his first invention. Previously, he invented the folding keyboard and licensed the technology. This time he’s bringing the USBcell to market himself through the company he founded called Moixa (axiom spelled backwards). Though this might force you to think differently, don’t worry, we won’t play the podcast backwards.

1:00 Working at IBM’s scientific center at Winchester between before college

3:15 Went to Christ College at Cambridge University

5:15 Worked at Anderson Consulting (now Accenture)

10:00 Jumping ship to start a new venture and modern art

13:45 Taking action on an invention

18:00 Being too early to market

21:00 The company

24:00 Financing strategies

26:00 USBcell

36:15 Marketing

46:30 Entrepreneurship in the UK

49:15 Goals for 2007

51:15 Capitalizing on invention

Posted by greg at 2:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

VV Show #41 - Premal Shah of Kiva

Download the MP3.

Premal Shah

Premal Shah believes your last name doesn't need to be Gates or Rockefeller in order to make a real dent in global poverty. After leaving his job as a Principal Product Manager at PayPal, it has taken Premal less then a year to make good on Kiva's pledge that all it takes to become a micro lender is a credit card and access to a computer. Raising money "Howard Dean Style" from over 13,000 online lenders, Kiva has provided more than a million dollars in low-cost working capital to small-scale entrepreneurs in less developed countries from Bulgaria to Uganda. The site boasts high repayments rates and soon hopes to offer lenders interest. We talk to Premal about how working in Silicon Valley has shaped his approach to combating poverty, how he believes the market "bakes in psychic and emotional returns," and how the power of online communities can strengthen the world of micro credit.

Episode producer: Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

1:35 The pitch: why micro-lend?

3:15 When PayPal was no big deal

4:10 When "the ship" gets too big, just get back to entrepreneurship.

8:44 Entrepreneur lesson

10:00 Repayment: No Problem

10:55 "Howard Dean Style"

12:40 A Favorite Loan

15:30 Zero percent Interest Rate: that does not sound like a good business to be in?

18:40 User-Generated Metrics

19:35 Transparency is Key

20:20 Can a picture tell a thousand lies?

30:10 Corruption

Posted by greg at 8:28 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

VV Show #40 - Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn

Download the MP3.

Reid Hoffman

Real business networking takes place in the country club, at the chamber of commerce and on the golf course. After all, the Internet is just for friending strangers on MySpace and poking friends on Facebook. If you said all that to Reid Hoffman, he might think twice about adding you as a contact in LinkedIn, the business networking site he started that connects over seven million professionals. Although his Palo Alto-based company is now profitable and growing rapidly, Reid still thinks he has yet to hit the tipping point. Reid’s goal wasn’t always to be an entrepreneur: He just wanted to change the world. His original career choice was “public intellectual”. Hear if his career switch is paying off.

1:00 Surprising beginnings

2:00 Advancing career

6:00 On financing a start-up

8:00 Paypal, lessons learned

14:00 On LinkedIn

18:00 Business model advice

20:00 Target market

27:00 Delivering value

36:00 How LinkedIn works

41:00 Web 2.0

43:00 Advice to entrepreneurs

Thanks to Jason Brady of Play Entourage for helping me find this file after it went missing for over a year.

Posted by greg at 11:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

VV Show #38 - Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc., Netscape and AOL

Download the MP3.

Jason Calacanis

There are not many entrepreneurs who have spent their entire 10-year careers starting new ventures in online media, but Jason Calacanis just can’t help himself. Jason rode the dot com wave in New York by starting Silicon Alley Reporter. His publishing company Rising Tide Media grew to $12 million in sales. Unfortunately Jason also rode that wave down after the bubble burst. He ended up selling his first business to Dow Jones for a lot less money than he could have gotten before the crash. Undeterred, Jason started Weblogs, Inc. to make money by selling ads in blogs they pay people to write. In only 18 months he grew the business to a point at which AOL (TWX) bought it for a reported $25 million. Now he’s re-launched Netscape as a news website where users vote for what’s important. Jason’s caused a lot of controversy by paying top users of competitive sites such as Digg (whose CEO Jay Adelson was on our last show) to switch to use his service. Hear what’s been driving Jason’s entrepreneurial career.

2:00 First company: Rising Tide Media

7:00 Personal style

16:00 Starting Weblogs Inc.

20:30 East Coast vs. West Coast entrepreneurship

28:30 Building an ad sales force

34:00 Re-launching Netscape

43:15 Doing business in social media

45:00 Should users get paid?

50:45 Dialog with Digg

52:00 Social news industry

55:15 Working for AOL

Photo credit: JD Lasica

Posted by greg at 4:09 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

VV Show #37 - Jay Adelson of Digg

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage

Digg, the news website that uses its own readers rather than editors to decide what stories are most important, has been growing with a fury. While founder Kevin Rose has gotten a lot of attention including a recent cover of BusinessWeek, CEO Jay Adelson has been guiding Digg toward business success. This isn’t Jay’s first time though the throes of entrepreneurship. He started Equinix, a company that now has a market capitalization of $1.5 billion. Despite its success, Jay didn’t make much money because he held his shares until after the dot com bust. In fact, he had just enough money to put his kids through college and live a more modest lifestyle himself. He was ready to go off and work at a coffee shop or become a teacher until Digg came along. Now he’s back in the game.

2:00 Early career

5:00 Entrance into entrepreneurship

7:15 Co-founding Equinix

19:00 Between ventures

24:00 Quitting entrepreneurship

28:00 Starting Digg

41:30 Virtual business

43:30 Worst business decision at Digg
45:30 Business model
47:00 Biggest competitor

60:00 BusinessWeek cover

62:00 Business capitalization

68:30 The future of Digg

Posted by greg at 1:14 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

VV Show #36 - Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage (part 1)

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage

If there are best practices in entrepreneurship, you’ll hear the secrets to them in this coverage of the first half of the recent Venture Voice Startup Workshop in New York City. If there are in fact no best practices for entrepreneurs, then you’ll at least enjoy the heated discussion about how entrepreneurs should navigate the startup seas. These passionate speakers fielded a day’s worth of questions and opinions from Venture Voice, each other and the spirited audience. The results are distilled ideas about what it takes to win in business, great war stories and even a few laughs.

3:00 Topic: Partnerships

20:20 Topic: Getting and keeping customers and users

29:45 Topic: Building a team

Hear from the rest of the speakers in part 2 of this series, coming soon.

View photos from the event.

Posted by greg at 1:17 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

VV Show #35 - Sharelle Klaus of Dry Soda

Download the MP3.

Sharelle Klaus

While many restaurants offer dozens of wines, beers and mixed drinks, there are few non-alcoholic options on the menu. Former dot-com entrepreneur and self-described foodie Sharelle Klaus was fed up with her lack of beverage options during the time she was pregnant with her four children. She decided to create the first line of “culinary sodas,” which are less sweet and more sophisticated than sodas like Coke or Pepsi. Based in Seattle, Sharelle’s now peddling her soda all across the country and already has traction in several markets.

Show notes:

1:45 Entrepreneurial streak as a child

3:45 Consulted on privatizing airports

5:15 Had two children

5:30 Getting into the internet business

8:30 After the bubble

11:15 Going into the beverage industry

13:30 Coming up with the idea for Dry Soda

15:30 Executing on the idea and starting Dry Soda

25:30 Launching the company

29:00 Current state of Dry Soda

38:30 The market

39:30 Funding

44:00 Team

Posted by greg at 11:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

VV Show #34 - David O. Sacks, Co-Founder of PayPal and Producer of Thank You For Smoking

Download the MP3.

Dave Sifry

What do you do after building and selling a business for $1.5 billion in the course of only a few years? That’s the question David O. Sacks, one of the co-founders of PayPal, faced after eBay bought his company. It didn’t take him long to find the answer: Go to Hollywood and make movies. David didn’t waste much time. He recently produced Thank You For Smoking which won critical and audience acclaim. Now you can hear about his journey and get his unique perspective on the convergence of media and technology.

1:30 Clip from Thank You For Smoking

2:45 Interests at Stanford

4:10 Coming back to Palo Alto in 1999

6:30 Getting involved with PayPal

8:00 Winning with PayPal

11:00 Relationship with eBay

15:30 Surviving

18:00 Exit

25:00 Moving from Silicon Valley to Hollywood

29:30 Producing Thank You For Smoking

Clip from Thank You For Smoking:

33:00 The message of the movie

35:30 Ambition

39:30 Cities of disruption

41:40 David’s movie and angel career

See you at the Venture Voice Startup Workshop.

Posted by greg at 4:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

VV Show #33 – Announcing the Venture Voice Startup Workshop

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice has been illuminating entrepreneurship through the podcast for just short of a year. Now, at the Venture Voice Startup Workshop on June 26 in New York, you can interact with top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to find out how to start and grow innovative businesses. Venture Voice, a podcast known for asking the hard questions about entrepreneurship, brings together highly successful speakers who’ve gotten their hands dirty growing businesses. This full-day event will be intense. Participants will leave with tactical knowledge about growing a business and with the inspiration to do so.

Tune in to this podcast to hear audio clips from some of the people who will be speaking at the workshop.

Posted by greg at 10:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #32 - David Sifry of Technorati

Download the MP3.

Dave Sifry

Starting a service aimed at the blogging community is like jumping into a pressure cooker – all of the users are critics and have bullhorns. Good thing David Sifry, the founder of Technorati, has a thick skin he’s built after founding four businesses. He’s not one to go on the defensive. Dave, a first time CEO after serving as CTO at his prior ventures, simply wants to “be of service.” Technorati is now of service to many people. It tracks 2.3 billion links and is, in its own words, “the authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs.”

Show notes:

1:35 Starting career as engineer

5:45 Learning not to engineer

12:30 Authority and responsibility

16:45 Past ventures

20:15 Motives for starting Technorati

26:30 Purpose and profit

29:45 Dealing with competitors

30:15 Scrutiny of bloggers

37:00 Getting the word out

41:15 From CTO to CEO

43:00 Sticking with Technorati

Posted by greg at 12:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

VV Show #31 - Steve Hindy of The Brooklyn Brewery

Download the MP3.

Steve Hindy

Being robbed at gun point and being threatened by the mob are not problems the average entrepreneur encounters. Steve Hindy faced these problems and more, but what concerned him most was the fate of his brewery. Steve started the Brooklyn Brewery with Tom Potter. Steve was a journalist and foreign correspondent. Tom was a banker. Neither knew a thing about starting, much less running, a brewery. With grit and determination, they stared down bankruptcy and made it work. In 2003, they sold their beer distributorship for about $10 million. Now Steve’s focused on the brewery (which is doing about $12 million in revenue and has become a global brand) and on the community.

Show notes:

2:45 Starting career as a journalist and AP foreign correspondent

7:30 Getting the idea for the Brooklyn Brewery

17:30 Being in Brooklyn

20:00 Dealing with investors

23:30 Building the team

28:00 Selling the distributorship

29:00 Entrepreneurial terror

35:45 Turning point

39:45 Brooklyn Brewery today

42:30 In the community

Steve and Tom wrote a book about their experence called Beer School.

Posted by greg at 12:05 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

VV Show #30 - Scott Johnson of Ookles

Download the MP3.

Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson is a long-time entrepreneur on the bleeding edge of technology. He started his first business in 1987 and successfully sold it. Then he rode the dot com wave up and down with Mascot Network, a company that was trying to do what Facebook does now by providing online communities for college students. Most recently, he started Feedster, which after a lot of early traction ousted Scott Johnson and the CEO he recruited. Now he gives us the exclusive on the mission of Ookles, his new company.

Show notes:

1:30 Early career

5:15 Worked for Mascot Network in 2000, a company that was similar to what Facebook now is

11:00 Time in transition and entrepreneurial ideas

15:00 Starting Feedster

31:00 What happened at Feedster?

34:00 New venture: Ookles

44:00 Burn rate and market analysis

53:30 Making money

55:00 Geography

58:00 Outro

Photo credit: Scott Beale

Posted by greg at 12:39 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

VV Show #29 - Shoba Purushothaman of The NewsMarket

Download the MP3.

Shoba Purushothaman of The NewsMarket

Shoba Purushothaman’s career has shifted dramatically since she started her first job as a business journalist in Malaysia. After spending several years working for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, she grew restless just covering how the world was changing. She wanted to influence it. Shoba co-founded a public relations consultancy that helped corporations ride the wave of change brought on by the rapid expansion of television news. She saw first hand how inefficient video distribution was, so in 2000 she sold her first business and started The NewsMarket to make video distribution simpler. Though she weathered some tough times in 2001, she’s managed to build the company to millions in revenue and recently closed on a $12 million venture round.

Show notes:

1:40 Starting career as a journalist

8:10 Getting out of journalism and into business

12:00 Taking advantage of the television news revolution

16:15 Selling to Fortune 500s

21:00 Starting The NewsMarket

29:00 Current state of The NewsMarket

30:40 The explosion of video on the web

33:20 Deal with Google

37:00 Rise of user-generated content

39:00 Entrepreneurial opportunities in video

41:50 Outlook for the future

46:00 Advice for entrepreneurs

Venture Voice updates:

48:15 Feedback from last show with John Bogle

49:15 Past guest Scott Heiferman’s Meetup.com announced that it received an investment from eBay

Posted by greg at 4:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #28 - John Bogle of The Vanguard Group

Download the MP3.

John Bogle of The Vanguard Group

If you’re making lots of money in a fat industry for doing relatively little, then the last thing you want is a competitor like John C. Bogle. He founded The Vanguard Group in 1975 and revolutionized the mutual fund industry by slashing management fees. By creating the world’s first index fund, John showed investors they could invest in the market without giving a large portion of their earnings to fund managers. While it sounds easy in hindsight, it was a difficult path. John was fired along the way and made many enemies in the industry. But John, like any good entrepreneur, is a fighter. And at age 75, he’s still ready for a challenge.

Show notes:

3:30 College years at Princeton

13:15 Executing on a senior thesis by starting a career in mutual funds

18:00 Started the world’s first index fund

23:40 Idealism and execution

28:00 Keeping costs low

32:15 Values in a company

38:45 Managers have usurped power from owners

49:15 Fighting corruption through the market

55:20 Going against the grain

Posted by greg at 10:55 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

VV Show #27 - Following Entrepreneurs at DEMO 2006

Download the MP3.

Demo 2006

When a startup launches its first product, should it expect a lot of fanfare? It should if it launches at DEMO before an audience of hundreds that includes some of the nation’s top journalists and venture capitalists (not to mention Venture Voice). DEMO is a two-day conference, held in Phoenix this time around, that features about 70 never-before-seen technology products. Most of the products come from scrappy startups. We follow two of those startups through the process, Sproutit and Sharpcast. Along the way we’ll talk to countless other entrepreneurs on the floor and some people who came to pick companies to cover or invest in. We covered this event last year (part 1, part 2) and followed VideoEgg, which was recently funded by the venture capitalist we introduced them to on that show. Let’s see what happens to Sproutit and Sharpcast.

Show notes:

:30 Covered VideoEgg last year; it got funded by David Hornik of August Capital

1:35 DEMO took place in Phoenix, Arizona

1:50 Introduction to Charles Jolley about of Sproutit

10:15 Introducing Gibu Thomas of Sharpcast

16:15 Introducing Mike Brown of Partech International

19:00 Andrew Graham from Bones in Motion

20:35 Andrew Wright from Smilebox

22:10 Oliver Starr of MobileCrunch

24:15 Mike from Partech on building companies to be big vs. acquired

26:10 Munjal Shah from Riya

27:30 Evan Rifkin and Fred Krueger from TagWorld

29:30 Sproutit at the pavilion

31:00 Sproutit on stage

37:00 Sharpcast on stage

43:45 Sharpcast debrief

45:30 Sproutit

47:00 Mike from Partech on investing in the companies at DEMO

Posted by greg at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #26 - Kelly Perdew is the Venture Voice 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Kelly Perdew may have won The Apprentice 2, but the listeners of Venture Voice have given him a new recognition for his entrepreneurial work since then. Kelly got the most votes for the Venture Voice 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Since we last had Kelly on the show, he’s started a number of new ventures. He announces on the show that he’s launching a new venture capital shop called Angel-Led Venture Partners. We also play your audio votes and get Kelly’s reaction.

3:00 Announcement

3:30 Listener vote: Entrepreneurial while working for Trump

4:15 Launching Trump Direct Media

5:35 Listener vote: Achievements since winning The Apprentice

6:25 Kelly’s new book is Take Command

9:20 Listener vote: Kelly cares about the nation’s youth

10:15 Helping the youth

13:00 Downside of being on The Apprentice?

14:15 Launching Angel-Led Venture Partners

17:45 Working with angels

19:50 Juggling many ventures

21:45 Next three months

Posted by greg at 12:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #25 - Jason Fried and Joel Spolsky Win Venture Voice Entrepreneurial Achievement Awards

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice Entrepreneurial Achievement Awards

The listeners have spoken. Jason Fried of 37signals and Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software have won Venture Voice Entrepreneurial Achievement Awards. They came in second and third place out of a pack of over 20 world-class entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed on the show (we’ll announce the Venture Voice Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner next week). It was a close race and you gave us some really impassioned votes. In this show, Jason and Joel give us some hints about what their companies are launching this year. They don’t get to have all the fun -- we play some of your comments too.

:40 Announcement of winners

1:05 Enthusiastic vote

1:55 Indecisive vote

2:50 Votes for Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software

4:30 Interview with Joel

13:15 Votes for Jason Fried of 37signals

14:40 Interview with Jason

Posted by greg at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #23 - Randy Komisar of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Download the MP3.

Randy Komisar

It’s not easy to stand out at Kleiner Perkins, one of the most prestigious venture capital shops in Silicon Valley that counts Google in its portfolio. Though Randy Komisar joined the firm just this year, it’s clear he’s not a typical venture capitalist. He once was a lawyer, but openly admits to hating being a lawyer and has been running from the law (well, from the practice of law) for most of his career. He’s played top roles at Claris Corporation, LucasArts Entertainment and TiVo. Now he’s ready to build a legacy at Kleiner Perkins.

Show notes:

1:50 Started career as a lawyer

3:50 Unbecoming a lawyer

7:30 Winning in Silicon Valley

9:10 Entrepreneurship a profession?

10:35 Becoming a VC

11:25 “Venture management model”

13:50 Making a mark

14:35 Valuations

16:20 Deciding to back a company

17:30 What Randy’s done so far

19:14 Wikipedia scandal with Adam Curry

20:10 Choosing a profession

Official bio:

Randy Komisar joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2005 as a partner. For several years prior Randy has partnered with entrepreneurs creating businesses with leading edge technologies.

He was a co-founder of Claris Corporation, served as CEO for LucasArts Entertainment and Crystal Dynamics, and acted as a "virtual CEO" for such companies as WebTV, Mirra and GlobalGiving. He was a founding Director of TiVo where he is currently chairman of the Nominating and Governance Committee. Earlier Randy served as CFO of GO Corporation and Senior Counsel for Apple Computer, following a private practice in Technology Law.

Randy holds a BA in Economics from Brown University and a JD from Harvard Law School. He is a Consulting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Stanford University and author of the best-selling book The Monk and the Riddle, as well as several articles on leadership and entrepreneurship. Randy frequently speaks here and abroad on such topics.

Posted by greg at 2:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

VV Show #22 - Introducing the Venture Voice Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice Entrepreneur of the Year Award

We’ve interviewed some of the most accomplished and most hungry entrepreneurs on this show, but now the year’s almost over and it’s time to choose the Entrepreneur of the Year. We have no distinguished panel of judges or wise editorial board to make this decision. Rather, we’re leaving it up to you, our listeners, to decide. Listen to this brief show to find out more. Visit www.VentureVoice.com/Entrepreneur2005 to cast your vote.

Posted by greg at 12:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #21 - Fabrice Grinda of Zingy

Download the MP3.

Fabrice Grinda

If you think the ringtone business is for kids, then Fabrice Grinda has a $130 million lesson to teach you. After starting the eBays of Europe and Latin America, Fabrice brought the ringtone business concept to America by starting Zingy. We caught up with Fabrice, now 31 and a millionaire several times over, just a couple of hours before he finished his last day at the helm of Zingy. While his possessions were in boxes, he put all of his cards on the table by telling us his net worth at every stage of the game. He’s risked all of his resources in the past for his ventures, but will he do it again? Listen to hear his plans.

Update (4/16/08): Fabrice announced on the Venture Voice blog that he's launched a new online classified business called OLX that's been dubbed a Facebook killer. OLX recently raised $13.5 million in venture funding.

Show notes:

1:15 Becoming an entrepreneur

6:30 Types of entrepreneurs

7:15 Out of college

9:30 Selection criteria for business

13:00 Started Aucland in Europe and Deremate in Latin America

22:30 Doing business in France

23:45 Investor follies

27:00 Picking the next venture

32:30 Missing payroll

33:30 Seeds of success

39:30 When to cash out

46:30 Quitting Zingy, moving on

48:50 Style

Posted by greg at 12:05 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

VV Show #20 - Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software

Download the MP3.

Joel Spolsky

While some entrepreneurs fret over new business ideas, Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software focuses on hiring the best and brightest for his New York City-based software company, and then figures out how to make a profit with the products they create. He bootstrapped his company to profitability and built a loyal following of fans along the way. While Joel developed Fog Creek's first product called FogBugz that tracks bugs, he let his 2005 summer interns develop their own product called Copilot that has already hit the market. Joel's out to prove he can put capital to work, scale his business, and maybe even revolutionize venture capital along the way.

Update: Joel returned for a second interview on Venture Voiceover three years later in 2009.

1:30 Starting career at Microsoft

6:00 Gaining versatile skills in a big company

9:15 Starting Fog Creek Software

15:00 Trying to build a content management system

16:35 Bootstrapping a company with Aeron chairs

19:30 Project Aardvark

23:00 Recognizing good business opportunities

28:00 Fog Creek Software management training program

32:30 Competing for smart students with Paul Graham's Y Combinator

33:45 Avoiding venture capital

40:45 Ambition

51:15 Venture Voice listeners started podcasts

Posted by greg at 12:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #19 - Derek Sivers of CD Baby

Download the MP3.

Derek Sivers

Many would-be tech titans dream day and night about how their hot new idea will change the world. Derek Sivers just wanted to have his independent band's CDs sold over the Web. No one would do it, so he built his own music store. CD Baby now generates $25 million a year in revenue and is the single largest digital distributor of music in the world according to Napster. And he did it without a dime in venture capital. Derek holds true to some very basic beliefs in business and a desire to keep revolutionizing the music industry.

Show notes:

1:30 Career as a musician and the birth of CD Baby

9:00 The importance of automation

10:30 Advice for starting a business

11:45 Training for business in the circus

15:00 Rebellion

18:30 Building a business in an unconventional way

20:30 Is building a business easy?

24:15 Company size

24:40 Steve Jobs encounter

28:00 Competition

34:15 No investors

40:40 Working with musicians

43:30 Location

45:45 Rebelling

Posted by greg at 12:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

VV Show #18 - Mena Trott of Six Apart

Download the MP3.

Mena Trott

At age 28, Mena Trott is a veteran blogger and an accomplished company founder. Six Apart, the business she started four years ago with her husband Ben, now has over 100 employees. Its stable of popular blogging products (including Movable Type, TypePad and LiveJournal) are used by writers of all types -- from the most influential bloggers to children who communicate after school. She's still pushing her company forward as president and developing some very ambitious new technologies.

Towards the end of the interview, VideoEgg co-founder Kevin Sladek jumps into the conversation to announce a partnership with Six Apart. Venture Voice covered the launch of VideoEgg during our DEMO coverage (show #14 and show #15). Starting today, VideoEgg and Six Apart will add video capabilities to TypePad.

Show notes:

Show recorded at the BlogOn Conference. Under embargo until today.

2:30 Six Apart's four year anniversary

5:05 Transforming a hobby into a business

7:15 Starting a business with a spouse

9:05 First investor

11:45 Change

12:55 Management team

16:15 Six Apart's software

17:40 Blogging to market a product

20:40 New product: Comet

21:45 Ambition for the future

24:40 Communicating with employees

26:30 Announcing video integration into Six Apart product TypePad

29:00 What Six Apart is all about

Kevin Slavek & Mena Trott

30:00 VideoEgg co-founder Kevin Sladek joins the interview

31:40 Striking and managing partnerships

34:30 VideoEgg is moving to San Francisco

35:50 Parting thoughts

37:00 Venture Voice wrap up

37:15 Events to check out

Posted by greg at 1:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #17 - Jason Fried of 37signals

Download the MP3.

Jason Fried

The business world seems to keep getting more complicated, but Jason Fried is all about keeping things simple. When founding 37signals, Jason and his two partners staked their careers on simplicity. They wrote a manifesto to convince others of their philosophy of keeping design on the Web simple. Their project management software, Basecamp, has become a hit for its ease of use. Their blog is intently followed by thousands of (mostly) admiring readers, and has led to a book. Jason tells how he's grown his business simply, too, without taking on any venture capital or debt despite many offers. He also drops a couple hints about the next few products his company will launch.

Show notes:

1:45 Start of career

3:10 Start of 37signals

7:50 Building Basecamp

10:00 Making Basecamp into a business

12:10 Getting the word out

15:30 Philosophy and vision

22:00 Economics of 37signals

22:45 Launching other products

25:45 New products in development

27:00 37signals changes

28:30 Startup style

30:50 Funding

34:15 Business development and customer service

40:25 Exit plan

41:45 Ambition

44:30 Other thoughts

Posted by greg at 10:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

VV Show #16 - Tom Szaky of TerraCycle

Download the MP3.


Dropping out of college to start a technology company is almost a cliché. But is technology the only industry that can seduce an ambitious student into entrepreneurship? Tom Szaky dropped out of Princeton because he saw an opportunity in trash. At 19, he started developing an alternative to Miracle-Gro by using the excrement of worms that eat compost. To keep costs down, he reused soda bottles to package his product and located his business in Trenton, New Jersey. He's now got seven-figure funding and is pushing six-figure revenues by selling TerraCycle in select locations of Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Home Depot. TerraCycle is planning on a full national rollout over the next three months. For this show we ventured into the heart of New Jersey to bring you on a tour of the TerraCycle factory. We talk with several TerraCycle employees and have an in-depth discussion with Tom about trash and cash.

Show notes:

1:40 Tom Szaky's description of TerraCycle

2:40 Tour of the factory with Abraham Diez

6:35 TerraCycle size

7:50 How Abraham got involved

9:05 How VP of Human Resources Elaine Gaughran got involved

10:20 How Bryan Chen got involved

11:45 Thoughts on Tom

13:34 How Tom got into this business

16:45 Initial funding through business plan competitions

18:15 Venture funding

21:15 The trick of winning business plan competitions

23:10 Interns

26:15 Trenton, NJ

29:30 Where you can buyTerraCycle

32:15 Working with investors

33:15 College drop out

36:45 Schedule for today

38:30 Watching TerraCycle grow

Posted by greg at 12:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #15 - Launching Companies at DEMO Conference

Download the MP3.


You might expect that if you launched your pride and joy -- your startup company -- at a conference, it would automatically be the center of attention. At DEMO, the leading technology product launch conference, you're hatching your business alongside 64 other companies with cool new technologies. You've got to deliver an awe-inspiring six-minute presentation, schmooze for many hours on end at a packed product pavilion, and be charming during the cocktail hours to make your mark. We continue our coverage of the DEMO conference by following VideoEgg's experience while grabbing audio clips from all over. Hear from Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg, August Capital partner David Hornik, Six Apart co-founder and president Mena Trott, U3 CEO and founding team member of Palm Kate Purmal, Jingle Network senior vice president Tom Latinovich and DEMO executive producer Chris Shipley.

Show notes:

3:45 VideoEgg co-founder and director of product and technology David Lerman

6:00 PR person

6:30 David Hornik of August Capital, VentureBlog and VentureCast

8:50 Tom Latinovich of Jingle Networks, Inc.

10:20 Kate Purmal, CEO of U3

12:40 Walt Mossberg, the author and creator of the Personal Technology column in The Wall Street Journal

15:30 The beach

16:55 Mena Trott, the president and co-founder of Six Apart

18:40 VideoEgg co-founders CEO Matt Sanchez and director of business development Kevin Slavek

19:10 VideoEgg demo at DEMO

25:50 Debrief with Kevin and Matt

26:35 Unrecorded DEMO moments

28:00 Venture Voice's Greg Galant is speaking at an iBreakfast event

Posted by greg at 8:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VV Show #14 - VideoEgg Preparing for DEMO Conference

Download the MP3.


New businesses usually start small and work slowly and steadily to build their reputation. But that's not true of startups that choose to launch their product at DEMO, the most prestigious conference dedicated to launching new technologies. Presenters have to agree to be radio silent about the cool technology they've been working on night and day for the past several months, if not years, of their lives. Then they have six minutes on stage to show it off to everyone, and a couple of days at a beach resort in Huntington Beach to network like crazy and deploy their freshly printed business cards. VideoEgg, a new company founded by three Yale graduates from the class of '04, chose to hatch itself at DEMO after months of quiet incubation. In today's show, we're chronicling what it's like to present at DEMO by telling the story of VideoEgg. We'll interview VideoEgg's founding team, DEMO executive producer Chris Shipley and DEMO groupie David Hornik of August Capital. We'll post a show after the conference with VideoEgg's presentation and the crowd's reaction.

Show notes:

1:55 Talking with Chris Shipley

2:20 Most famous DEMO presenters

3:50 Who attends DEMO

5:00 DEMO stats

6:25 Worst DEMO presentation

7:30 Format of the show

8:30 VideoEgg

11:30 Talk with VideoEgg's founding team: CEO Matt Sanchez, director of business development Kevin Slavek and director of product and technology David Lerman

13:00 What is VideoEgg?

16:00 Deciding to become entrepreneurs

19:05 Raising funding for VideoEgg

23:50 Sleep

24:00 Deciding to go to DEMO

26:40 Most important person to meet at DEMO

30:00 Naming VideoEgg

32:40 The fate of VideoEgg

35:00 Thoughts before DEMO

35:35 Conference call with Kevin and Matt before leaving for DEMO

42:00 Kevin and Matt's reactions on a Venture Voice interview with David Hornik of August Capital and Venture Blog

46:30 Last thoughts before DEMO

Posted by greg at 3:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

VV Show #11 - Scott Rafer of Feedster

Download the MP3.

 Scott Rafer

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.

Site notes:

1:30 Career start

3:00 Corporate entrepreneurship

10:00 Previous venture

11:15 Being too early in a market

15:15 Feedster involvement

17:20 RSS

19:40 The next Google?

21:35 Competition

24:30 Founder relations

27:15 Sales

31:15 Political views and causes

35:30 Audio vs. text

37:35 West vs. East Coast

48:10 Threats to Feedster

50:40 Speculating on the future

Official bio:

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.

Posted by greg at 7:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #9 - Jeremy Hague of Skylook

Download the MP3.

Jeremy Hague

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.

Show notes:

1:25 Career start

4:00 Description of Skylook

8:10 Call recording

9:45 Integrating two pieces of software from different manufactures

12:45 User feedback

14:45 Phone calls are back among techies

18:10 Business plan

19:50 Revenue

24:55 Managing time

26:05 Skype building in functionality

26:45 Young entrepreneur

29:15 Australian entrepreneurial culture.

33:20 Remote collaboration via Skype

35:20 Try Skylook

Posted by greg at 11:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #8 - Kelly Perdew, Winner of The Apprentice

Download the MP3.

Kelly Perdew

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.

Show notes:

1:10 Career beginnings in the Army

3:25 Getting an MBA/JD

4:15 First venture

6:30 Worked at Deloitte Consulting (then called Braxton Group)

8:30 Worked at eteamz

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?

13:35 Change

16:35 Pre-Apprentice enterprises

19:00 Risk of appearing on The Apprentice

21:00 Appearing on The Apprentice

24:00 The technology industry vs. real estate

24:40 Trump projects

26:55 Business vs. entertainment

27:30 On New York

28:00 Trump Organization

29:00 What's next?

30:30 Book deal

32:40 Apprentice's impact on America

36:20 To do list for today

36:45 The future

Posted by greg at 1:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #7 - Evan Williams of Odeo

Download the MP3.

Evan Williams

A quick glance at Evan's bio might make it seem as though he just stumbles into all the newest, hottest trends. However, the only thing Ev stumbled into was traffic (the kind you get on the non-information highway -- where he discovered the value of listening to podcasts) on his commute. After trying his hand in Nebraska's tech entrepreneurial circuit (well, he was the circuit), Ev made the voyage out west to California. He founded Blogger, one of the most popular blogging services, sustained it throughout the dot com bust with few resources, and sold it to Google. After spending some time at Google growing Blogger, he's back on the trail again building his new podcast business, Odeo.

Odeo is a young startup with fuel. Ev announces in this show that Odeo has just received its first round of venture funding.

Update (4/21/08): Ev returned Odeo's funds to the investors and sold the company. He co-founded Twitter, which just raised its own funding and is on a fast growth curve.

Show notes:

1:40 First gig

2:35 Unusual places to build Internet companies

3:15 Moving to California

4:50 From employee to entrepreneur

10:35 From geeks to general audience

12:20 Google acquisition

18:20 Odeo thinking big

24:10 Other podcast players

28:05 Odeo's funding

28:50 Podcast industry

30:35 The better suitor: Yahoo or Google?

32:25 Next six months


View Venture Voice on Odeo.
Check out what podcast Ev's subscribed to on Odeo.

Posted by greg at 6:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #6 - Scott Heiferman of Meetup

Download the MP3.

Scott Heiferman

Entrepreneurs need community. This entrepreneur makes communities. An Illinois native, Scott Heiferman came to New York while working for Sony in 1994. He quickly joined the avant-garde of the Silicon Alley community while growing his new media ad agency, i-traffic. After selling i-traffic to Agency.com (capitalized companies apparently acquire non-capitalized ones), Scott worked the counter at McDonald's. Scott left both the food services industry and the advertising business to create something unheard of: an on-line service that gets people to leave the computer.

Show notes:

1:35 Worked at McDonald's

3:15 Lessons learned

4:30 Previous ventures

5:30 Meetup thought up

8:15 Challenge of starting Meetup

9:55 First Meetups

12:30 The Presidential election

15:00 Scott's Meetups

16:20 Entrepreneurship geographically

18:25 Making Meetup successful

22:10 Media matters

24:05 Social networking?

25:45 Changing business model

27:00 Meetup in the future

28:00 Podcasters' Meetup in New York

Posted by greg at 1:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #5 - Joe Kraus of JotSpot (part 2 of 2)

Download the MP3.

Jot Spot Team

We covered the past with Joe in our previous show, but it's clear he spends a lot of time thinking about the future. Many people muse about how they would do things differently if they had only the chance to do it all over again. Joe is doing it all over again by building his new business, JotSpot, from scratch. He shares his development strategy and vision for the company.

Show notes:

0:45 JotSpot elevator pitch

2:45 Getting non-geeks to use JotSpot

5:45 Listening to customers

6:50 Team dynamics

8:45 Excite lessons

9:20 Funding

10:45 New competition

11:15 Prices for JotSpot

12:55 Developer community

14:00 To do list

15:00 Non-profit work

17:45 Interesting opportunities on the Web

21:30 A blogger but not a podcaster, yet

23:15 Copyright and podcasting

24:10 Advice to entrepreneurs

Posted by greg at 7:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #4 - Joe Kraus of JotSpot (part 1 of 2)

Download the MP3.

Joe Kraus

Conventional wisdom tells us to go get a job out of college to learn the ropes, not to take on friends as business partners, and to accept defeat gracefully. Joe Kraus's business war stories are anything but conventional. Before graduating college, he convinced five of his friends to pass on blue chip job offers to start a business of their own. What would that business be? They didn't know yet, but met at a burrito shop to come up with something. The rest is Internet history.

Joe was the founding president of Excite, one of the first well-known Internet search and content sites. After a merger, Joe left Excite@Home in 2000 and tried his hand at world travel, angel investing and politics. Unable to break the entrepreneurship addiction, Joe is now starting JotSpot, the first application-wiki company. More on his newest venture in the next show.

Show notes:

1:05 Starting a business out of college

2:00 Catching the entrepreneurship bug

4:45 Working with friends

9:20 Developing business ideas

12:10 Raising capital

12:45 Power of persistence

15:15 Excite's merger

19:20 Decompressing, angel investing and entrepreneurial addiction

Joe Kraus official bio:

Joe Kraus is co-founder and CEO of JotSpot, the first application-wiki company. A long time entrepreneur, Joe has been involved with early-stage technology development and starting companies for more than twelve years. Upon graduation from Stanford University in 1993, he joined with five engineering friends to found the highly successful Internet company, Excite, Inc. The original president of Excite, Joe was deeply involved in product strategy, direction and vision as the company grew. He also held senior operational roles in business development, international development and content.

After leaving Excite@Home in 2000, Joe was a co-founder of Digitalconsumer.org, a non-profit grassroots consumer organization with more than 50,000 members dedicated to protecting consumers fair-use rights to digital media. Joe, along with other co-founder Graham Spencer, continues to work on these important issues. In addition to his non-profit focus, he has also spent many years as an angel investor, working with numerous early-stage technology companies.

Posted by greg at 5:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VV Show #3 - Philip Kaplan of AdBrite

Download the MP3.

Philip Kaplan

This Internet bad boy doesn't think he's so bad, and one of the top venture capital firms agrees to the tune of $4 million. Don't know who Philip Kaplan of AdBrite is? Well if you were doing anything remotely dot com related in the late 90's you probably know who Philip Kaplan of F___edCompany.com (FC for short) is. His site grew famous, if not infamous, for posting the latest additions to the 'dot com dead pool.' Now with his current prize business, AdBrite, he intends never to join the businesses that FC featured.

Philip was not nearly covered as much for AdBrite as he was for FC, so we decided to catch up with him on the phone. He didn't sound as eccentric you might expect of someone with his resume, but he still has the attitude and smarts needed to be a dot com muckraker.

Watch that language: We try to keep our podcast pretty clean, but there's no getting around the F-word when talking about Philip's past (and Philip doesn't say 'the F-word'), so don't blast this podcast in your office if it's bring your child to work day.

Show notes:

2:35 The LA Times dubbed Philip Kaplan 'Internet Bad Boy'

3:10 Origin of FC

5:30 Birth of AdBrite

7:30 Funding from Sequoia Capital

10:00 FC today

11:15 New York to San Francisco

13:15 AdBrite growth

18:35 Profanity in Web sites

19:10 AdBrite blog

19:30 Blog industry

19:55 Media matters

21:40 Reading and watching habits

24:05 Philip's book, F'd Companies

24:30 New opportunities on the Web

25:25 FastCompany

25:50 AdBrite in three years

Philip Kaplan official bio:

Philip J. Kaplan is a 29-year-old entrepreneur based in New York City and San Francisco, USA. He has founded and manages a number of web-based properties. Philip is also the bestselling author of F'd Companies, and founded PK Interactive, an Internet consultancy that was sold in 2001. Philip's sites have been named "Site of the Year" by Yahoo!, Rolling Stone, and TIME Magazine.

Posted by greg at 8:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

VV Show #2 - Dick Costolo of FeedBurner (part 2 of 2)

Download the MP3.

Sick of potential investors not taking your phone calls? Pitch a venture capitalist on his iPod. Dick Costolo of FeedBurner tells us how his CTO did just that in the second and final part of our conversation. (Be sure to check out the first half too if you haven't already).

Show notes:

0:35 Team building

1:25 How FeedBurner communicates internally

2:40 Communicating with investors

3:15 Customer support

9:35 No blog policy (or vacation policy) for employees

11:25 Making money by blogging and podcasting

13:20 Reading and listening habits

14:30 iPod pitches to venture capitalists

17:15 Business plan vs. elevator pitch podcast

17:50 FeedBurner's growth opportunities

20:30 Web 2.0 or bubble 2.0

22:00 Process for picking new business ideas

27:20 Costolo's elevator pitch for using FeedBurner

Posted by greg at 12:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VV Show #1 - Dick Costolo of FeedBurner (part 1 of 2)

Download the MP3.

Dick Costolo of FeedBurner joins us for our first show. FeedBurner provides services for publishers of RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS is an interface that allows users to access data from blogs, traditional media, podcasts and other sources in the way they want to view it. Dick's service is widely used and well funded.

Show notes:

1:25 FeedBurner is company number four for Dick

2:45 Got interested in RSS

7:30 Exciting new areas in RSS technology

9:00 Bloggers as investors

9:55 Blog vs. business plan

11:15 Raising the first round of capital

12:45 The FeedBurner Founding Fathers

14:00 Life at the executive suite 'flat desk'

16:35 Phone answering and delegation

19:05 Entrepreneurs as CEOs

21:25 Focus for serial entrepreneurs

24:10 Chicago blues
25:55 Chicago talent

The next show (part 2 of this interview) will discuss team building, how to pitch a venture capitalist through his iPod and the biggest threat to FeedBurner. To be notified of our next show, add us to your RSS or podcast client, or enter your e-mail address in the box at the top right hand side.

Please send in your critiques, complements and suggestions.

Posted by greg at 3:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack