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Tuesday
Feb112014

LAUNCH Festival Build Your Dream App Competition

We’ve partnered with Ice House, a mobile app development firm, during the 2014 LAUNCH Festival to give you an opportunity to build your dream app. 

Have you had a killer idea for a mobile app? Do you have an existing project that absolutely needs a mobile app?

Answer a few easy questions by 8am, February 26 and you’ll be entered to win $50k of investment to build your dream app! 

The winner will be announced on stage at the end of the final day of the LAUNCH Festival.

Bonus: after the app is built, the winner will come on LAUNCH Founder Jason Calacanis’s podcast, This Week in Startups, to talk about it. 

Read the guidelines & enter to win here: http://launch.icehousecorp.com/.

Friday
Feb072014

Google Wins Everything Part Two: How to be a Partner 

Susan Wojcicki took over YouTube, Wednesday, from my pal Salar Kamangar.

Salar did an amazing job growing YouTube and everyone is thankful for his efforts; he’s a class act who quietly built the product into the most important asset at Google.

Literally, the most important thing at Google--the land of important things.

Heck, that is coming from me, a person who walked away from YouTube funding and massive growth in viewership because it was clear that there is no room given the current split (55/45) for anyone but Google to make a living. More on that in a bit.

In this piece I want to talk about three things:

1. Why YouTube is the most important product at Google--by far

2. Why Google is blowing it

3. A simple solution for Susan to fix the problem

[ The New York Times actually caught up to my “Ain’t gonna work on YouTube’s farm no more” piece (http://goo.gl/em2VfN) eight months later (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/business/chasing-their-star-on-youtube.html). NYT is on it! :-p ]

1. Why YouTube is the most important product at Google
---------------------------

YouTube is the most important asset in Google’s collection of brands and services. It has 1b+ users a month.

Over the coming years, the number of people using the service will be 110%+ of the people who have internet connections.

Wait, what?!? How?

Yes, more people will use YouTube then use the Internet itself.

Two reasons:

a. people taking their mobile devices out and saying “watch this video!” to people who don’t have the Internet (aka a smartphone) yet.

b. people with smart televisions will increasingly hit the “YouTube” button on their remote controls--and every TV will have YouTube on their remote in 10 years--pulling the rest of the world in.

YouTube is a more valuable asset than Facebook and Twitter--combined!

Humans love watching video and advertisers covet video ads most.

YouTube revenue will eclipse Google search revenue in the next 10 years. I’m certain.

Given that Google paid $1.7b for YouTube, and it would be worth at least $100b if it was public today, YouTube was the M&A deal of the century.

Google paid for a pony and got a unicorn--with Pegasus wings!

[Click to tweet this editorial -- can edit before sending: http://ctt.ec/a9B56]

2. Why Google is blowing it
------------------------------------

YouTube has unfortunately inherited Google’s odd--some say passive-aggressive or controlling--”we don't have partners!” position.

By treating everyone the same, Google shuts down any negotiation on price or features. It’s take-it-or-leave-it, and with Google’s search and video monopolies--and they are monopolies--it’s hit the bricks for a few and bite your lip for the rest.

Matt Cutts, Google’s long term public face, was fairly clear saying "Google doesn't have partners," recently at an event we both spoke at.

Ouch!

He actually believes this, and he is the most visible person at Google--1,000x more visible than Larry or Sergey (by design).

For 15 years, however, I had the advertising side of the business--Susan’s side--telling my companies what great partners we were!

How valued we were as a partner, how they wanted to deepen the relationship with Engadget/WeblogsInc/Mahalo/Inside/etc.

Heck, even after the Panda update destroyed all of our traffic at my last company, Mahalo, the ad side of the business was calling me saying “why aren’t you publishing more pages to Google’s search index?” and “how can we help you, we value you as a partner!”

Uhh… we stopped publishing because you destroyed our company!

Then YouTube backed Mahalo with seven figures to make content, and they offered us, and others, use of their studio space as *partners*. They host partner conferences constantly, which we have all attended.

But when it came to discussing the revenue split or getting help to make the business sustainable, you are faced with the “Google Death Glare.”

It’s a blank stare Google executives give you when you express a concern, as if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t speak one word of your language.

Anyone who has Google as a partner knows this stare.

It’s just weird, and very Silicon Valley--in the worst way.

Google only sees you as a partner when they need you to run their ads or they need your content to draw in advertisers. When you need help, Google says “we don’t have partners!”

That’s why folks are so frustrated with Google, and I see that tipping over into hate more and more often. The people I meet who run Machinima, Maker and other major YouTube partners exhibit outright hate for YouTube.

That’s bad news for Google.

In fact, it’s fairly clear to this executive, who has been working with Google since Day One, that Google thinks of content creators--artists--as this necessary evil to put their ads next to.

They don’t really respect us since they won everything. If they did, they would listen to our needs and think about making their platform sustainable.

They don’t listen any more really (that is, unless you need help implementing their advertising technology).

Have a question on how to optimize your ads? They’re all ears!

Have a question about the revenue split, making your business sustainable or why you were replaced in search results by their service (see Yelp v. Zagat)? Google Death Glare!

This gives people, inevitably, the message that Google doesn’t care about them, and it builds massive resentment.

That resentment is coming from protesters in the streets (directed at Google buses) and at conferences at $600-a-night hotels packed with media executives.

Resentment of Google has never been higher, which is what happens when #googlewinseverything.

But it could be easily reversed!

3. How Susan can solve the problem

----------------------------------------

Susan: why not create an objective system where not everyone is treated the same. Where you are more loyal to the folks who are most loyal to you?

This was my suggestion to Salar on how to keep YouTube from becoming the most loved/loathed platform in the world--which it now is.

Here is a simple example of how to implement it: create four levels of YouTube publishers.

Level one: Everyone! (i.e. you upload a cat video 1x in your life)

- 50 / 50 revenue split
- standard YouTube feature set

Level two: prosumers with < 100k subscribers

-- 60 / 40 revenue split
-- standard YouTube feature set

Level three: professionals 100-500k subscribers who publish regularly

-- 70 / 30 revenue split
-- ability to collect email addresses from consumers
-- advances of up to six months of revenue to fund production

Level four: elite publishers 500k+ subscribers who publish regularly

-- 80 / 20 revenue split
-- ability to collect email addresses from consumers
-- ability to control 25% of their channel page (as long as they don’t break it)
-- advances of up to one year of revenue to fund production

If YouTube had given me this deal, I would not have launched Inside.com and would not have shut down Mahalo’s video operation.

In fact, I had $15m in venture capital ready to go if Google gave us the features I describe above.

Instead, they gave me the Google Death Glare, as if the idea that they might actually give me or Ellen or Maker or Machinima or iJustine a different deal based on merit would rip a hole in the universe.

I wish Susan and Google the best.

I hope, at some point, Google will look back at what got them to this point: their hard work and their partners.

No one wins alone; we all get there together in life.

Winning everything is awesome, but when it is at the expense of the partners who got you there it becomes a real, real shallow victory.

There is no reason everyone can’t win at YouTube and with Google.

Google doesn’t have to win everything, they can give their “partners” a taste.

[[ SPECIAL: A legend who worked actively with YouTube, but doesn’t want to damage the relationship, comments on my article below! ]]

best @jason

PS -- LAUNCH Hackathon filling up, get in there! http://hackathon.launch.co  Feb 21-23rd. I’m investing $100k in the winners!

PPS -- Had an awesome This Week in Startups interview with Stewart Alsop: http://thisweekinstartups.com/stewart-alsop-history-of-tech  

PPPS -- Inside.com has three openings for folks who love the news business: Android, iOS and design. Work from anywhere, change the world: http://jobs.inside.com   

PPPPS -- LAUNCH Festival is happening Feb 24-26 in San Francisco (http://festival.launch.co).

Tickets here: http://events.launch.co/festival/#tickets. Want to reach 10k entrepreneurs/startups? partners@launch.co. Thanks to these partners for making the event happen: BitPay (http://bitpay.com), Capital One Labs (https://capitalonelabs.com/), Carvoyant (http://carvoyant.com), Cater2.me (http://cater2.me), CoTap (http://cotap.com), Draper University (http://draperuniversity.com), Pivotal Labs (http://pivotallabs.com), Samsung (http://samsungaccelerator.com/).

 

From someone deep in the YouTube community for seven years:

================================

“I’d say this reflects a lot of the sentiment out there among YouTubers fairly accurately, though they lack your ability to actually get away and change up their businesses approach to community. If you are Toby Turner or SeaNanners, you really don’t have the option to pivot or pick up and move your content elsewhere -- your army of loyal 12-year-olds are on YouTube, and that’s where they want to see your stuff. Which is why Google thinks it can get away with this stuff -- what are you going to do, post on DailyMotion? You do speak a bit about this -- the notion of YouTube as a video monopoly -- but it’s really on people’s minds a lot these days, particularly as companies like Maker, FullScreen and Machinima have started toying with the idea of breaking off their own domains and video players.

“Some major issues that are also of concern to the creator community that you could also touch on, in this or a future piece:

- Google+ Integration: Essentially, YT content creators are community managers with no control at all over their community and no tools to work with, and the way everyone was forced to switch over to Google+ was just highlighting this larger issue

- Non-Existent Customer Support: Having problems uploading a particular video? Videos not syncing with Facebook properly? You’ve swapped out a thumbnail but it isn’t updating? It’s EXTREMELY hard to get any help with that from Google themselves, and a lot of people’s upload schedules are extremely time sensitive. For the amount of ad revenue creators are sharing with Google, shouldn’t they at least be guaranteed the platform itself will work smoothly?

- No Prep or Consultation Before Sweeping Rule Changes: No one who makes video game-related YouTube content was unaffected by the sudden, massive changes to how “copywritten” game content was being treated. Creators whose livelihoods depend on their deep back catalog of “Let’s Play” videos suddenly saw their content vanish, and others were left confused about what exactly was and was not permissible moving forward.

- Inconsistent Community Outreach: Sometimes it feels like Google is everyone’s best friend and just wants to help their creators blow up and find an audience. But Google also sends a lot of mixed messages. I had one creator who makes almost exclusively comedy videos tell me that he was always being invited to “Comedy Nights” at the YouTube Space, only to find out he was invited to be in the audience while more mainstream celebrities actually performed comedy. Which is insulting -- why won’t Google embrace its own community, the ones who made their streaming site the leader in online entertainment? Look also to events like the YouTube Music Awards, which ignored almost all of the extremely talented musicians who are personally active on YouTube in favor of honoring celebrities who couldn’t be bothered to show up, like Eminem and Taylor Swift.”

 

Tuesday
Jan282014

Building the world's greatest news product

For the past year I’ve been working with my team to conceive of what would be the best news product in the world. It’s a huge mission and with the launch of Inside we take the first step. 

We decided that the best news product in the world today would have the following characteristics:

1. It would be mobile — specifically for smartphones
2. It would be real-time
3. It would be fact-filled 
4. It would connect folks to the world’s best journalism
5. It would respect the reader’s time 

When we researched the space we found a ton of great journalism in the world, but it was being drowned out by a lot of “other” stuff. Mainly link-baiting, reblogging and generally low-quality content. 

Readers need help navigating this new world filled with social media, blogging and stories breaking in real time — be it on Reddit, Twitter or blogs. 

Inside is an app that’s available today on your iPhone, Blackberry and mobile web browser. An Android version will be coming soon. 

[ Click here to tweet this editorial. You can modify before sending: http://ctt.ec/5fizZ ]

Here’s how it works:

1,000 Updates a Day
Every day a team of curators find the 1,000 most important and fascinating stories in the world and the journalists who did the best job telling those stories. They write a 300-character “update” on the story and link directly to the source. These updates have a short “embedded headline,” generally contain 10 facts and are categorized in up to three topics. 

What they don’t contain is fluff, bias or deceptive headlines. 

They are designed, like our entire product, to save you time. 

inside_rating_small.gif

Your Personalized Feed 
You can vote any update up or down, which will customize your “My Feed.” The /myfeed is where you get the stories you care most about. There are two other feeds in the app: /allupdates(where you can see all updates to the system in real-time) and /topnews (where you can see the 25 stories of the day as selected by our curators). 

We’re sort of like Pandora for news. 

Swiping The Deck
We decided to use the metaphor of a feed for our app with one very important difference: the hidden deck of cards. When you’re on an update about the /stateoftheunion or the/grammys, you can use your thumb to slide the update to the left (grab the image!) and reveal the previous update in that topic. 

With over 20,000 updates a month you’ll be able scroll and slide the deck to your heart’s delight without ever using anything other than your thumb.

inside_cards_small.gif

[ Note: We are not responsible for any thumb fatigue or injury you may incur. ] 

In Summary
We’re not sure exactly where this journey will lead, but we know that news is critically important to our society and we want to showcase the amazing journalism occurring today by doing the best curation in the world. 

We take our responsibility for selecting stories and sources extremely seriously, and we hope you challenge us and let us know how we are doing often. You can post your comment under any update or email the team@inside.com any time with your thoughts. 

all the best, @jason, @GabrielSnyder & the Inside team 

@inside || iTunes App Store || Join Inside mailing list ||Blackberry || Mobile Web
 

Monday
Jan272014

Paul Graham fireside at LAUNCH Festival + our judges!

Really excited to announce that Y Combinator founder Paul Graham will be joining me for a fireside chat at the LAUNCH Festival this year. Paul has been one of the greatest supporters of founders and startups in the past decade, with over 500 startups coming out of YC in the past 8+ years. You’ve heard of a couple of them, including Dropbox (which launched in the first year of our event) and Airbnb.

He’s also a great blogger and thinker, and I’ve been waiting seven years to interview him. It’s going to be an awesome discussion.

The LAUNCH Festival runs Feb. 24-26th, with the LAUNCH Hackathon occurring Feb. 21-23 (http://hackathon.launch.co/). The festival takes place at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse.

Over 6,000 folks have registered for the event, and we’re going to close registration at 8,000. You can register today for $49, $495, $1,000 or $5,000 depending on what dinners/events you want to attend (we try to make it available to all levels, from broke founders to flush VCs!):

http://festival.launch.co

We’re thrilled to announce our seven latest judges for the event:

 * Katie Rae, Techstars Boston
 * Dana Settle, Greycroft Partners
 * Kara Swisher, Re/Code
 * Gina Bianchini, Mightybell
 * Sarah Lacy, PandoDaily
 * Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures
 * Tina Sharkey, Sherpa Foundry

Finally, we have a second stage this year called the “Startup Stage” where more established companies will do deep dives into their performance and strategy. This stage is based on the demand that investors had to see more mature companies, and from founders who had goals of showcasing their performance to the press – recruiting new team members and updating investors. If you want to do a deep dive into your company you can find out more here: http://events.launch.co/startup-stage/

Special thanks to our new partners that make this event happen:
 * Fertl (http://www.fer.tl/)
 * Ice House (http://icehousecorp.com)
 * North Bridge (http://northbridge.com)
 * Pearson (http://pearson.com)
 * Swell (http://swell.am)
 * Twitter (http://twitter.com)

Wednesday
Jan082014

Mark Cuban to keynote LAUNCH Festival 2014

I’m super excited that Mark Cuban will be sitting down with me for a fireside chat at this year’s LAUNCH Festival.

Entrepreneur, blogger, angel investor, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, the best part of ABC’s Shark Tank – there are a ton of different ways to describe Mark – but our conversations are always great fun and brutally honest. And he always has interesting insights into things.

We’re going to have 8,000+ participants in this year’s Festival, making it the world’s largest startup conference, Feb 24-26 in San Francisco: http://festival.launch.co

If you missed my “gift to the industry”, there’s still time to claim your complimentary pass. However, I expect we’ll be sold-out by next week, so please register now:

UPDATE: "Gift to the industry" tickets are sold out!

Passes can still be purchased here: http://launch.ticketleap.com/launch-festival-2014/dates
Details: http://festival.launch.co

Some other highlights below, I really hope you can make it!

best, @jason

=====

More from LAUNCH Festival:  

Fireside Demos with the founders of some awesome products

 

  • Kanishk Parashar, Coin - the incredibly viral “one credit card to rule them all"
  • Rob Rhinehart, Soylent - the meal replacement sludge of the future
  • Paul Eremenko, Project Ara -  former DARPA, now modular phones at Motorol
  • Christian Sanz, Skycatch - they code drones!
  • Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics - they make personal drones, you can buy
  • Simon Tian, Neptune - they are reinventing the smart watch with Pine
  • Stephane Marceau, OMSignal - bio-sensing clothin
  • Thejo Kote, Automatic - FitBit for your ca
  • Stuart Williams, Cardiovascular Innovation Institute - 3D printed heart!
  • Stacy Stephens, Knightscope - robots that patrol your neighborhood & schools

 

Startup Stage - Brand new stage!

On the Startup Stage, companies will give 20-minute presentations that go in-depth on their products, strategies, staffing, fundraising, and the markets they are pursuing. These are the deep dives that investors typically ask for, where founders will have the opportunity to show their products, detail the markets they're operating within, share their fundraising history and plans, profile their executive team, and explain what positions they have open.

Presenters include:

 

  • Glenn Martin, Martin Jetpack - It’s a jetpack!
  • Kishan Shah, Downsize Fitness - plus-size gyms sweeping the nation!
  • Edouard de La Jonquière, Mention - powerful social notifications
  • Kristoph Matthews, Boxbee - simple urban storage *LAUNCH 2013 Winner*

 

Verticals to include: Enterprise, Sales & CRM, Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency, Hardware, Robotics & Drones, Education, Mobile Gaming, On-Demand, Social, Wearable Tech, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, the Maker Space & DIY, Internet of Things, Parenting & Families, Smart Homes, Art & Design, 3D Printing, Travel, and Green Transportation.

Have a topic or company to suggest? Email team@launch.co

Grand Jury

These folks watch every demo and help us pick the best of the best startups. One or two more additions coming (yes, we have a ton of invites out to women as well – we value diversity and always have it).

 

 

Special thanks to our new partners that make this event happen:

 

 

Also, a quick thank you to our media partners, helping us get out the word: Women Who Code (http://www.meetup.com/Women-Who-Code-SF/), CoFounders Lab (http://www.cofounderslab.com/), Beta Li.st (http://betali.st/), Founder Dating (http://founderdating.com), and many others: http://events.launch.co/festival/#partners

There’s still time to reach the 8,000+ entrepreneurs/developers/startups that are going to be there. Email: partners@launch.co.

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